No one alive today knows for sure how it all started. But we certainly do know why. Usury is surely the child of raw, unbridled greed. And it will, in my opinion, be the proverbial final straw that ultimately brings the Great American Experiment down.
Whether you are familiar with the term usury or not, you are almost certainly a victim of it. Usury is simply the loaning of money on which interest is charged.
The person who first thought of this idea died eons ago. If there is a Hell, he may well reside there now. If not, his or her invention is certainly responsible for more current citizens of that place than any other.
I imagine the concept of usury grew out of the simple idea of loaning tangible property to others. For example, I might have several good bows and many fine arrows. I might decide to loan a set out rather than bartering them away. In return for the temporary use of my property you might be required to perform a service for me. Hence I would receive this service for the mere cost of allowing you the use of my property.
It's a great idea so long as you perform the service I require and return my property in good condition. If I'm not sure you are an honorable person, I can either decide not to loan you my property, or I can insure myself against possible loss by asking you to leave something you own of equal value with me in case I never see my bow again. Hence the idea of collateral is born.
It's the old idea of having your cake and eating it. Only this really is having your cake and eating it!
In the most ancient of times, things such as livestock served as money. Once metals came into play, the most precious of these became common sources of monetary value. Paper money, such as we use today, only came into existence a mere 300 years ago, in the early 1700's. Tomorrow's money will most likely be electronic data.
Regardless of the form it takes, money lends itself perfectly to the art of usury. I will loan you one hundred pieces of silver for 30 days. At the end of that time you must repay my one hundred pieces, plus you must give me five additional pieces as my fee for the use of my money.
What a sweet deal this was to those who had money to lend. Except for one tiny problem. Along with the rise of civilization, and the various fixed monetary systems, came organized religions. No sooner had usury begun than it was condemned!
It is interesting to note that in these pristine times the great religions of the world were actually religious. Hence the Jews, the early Christian Church and Islam all forbade the charging of interest among their followers. Many early leaders of the various religions expressed ideals similar to Arnold of Brescia (1090
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