Atheist views on Usury?

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Atheist views on Usury?

#1  Postby alienpresence » Apr 05, 2010 6:32 am

Usury: there is a rich and inflationary tradition of charging money at interest around the globe. Things like bonded labor where a poor human being in a poor country takes a small loan and is charged massive interest on it so she/he must work all hours to pay a impossible interest charge; perhaps for life. Is this usury or just plain evil in the good old fashioned sense of the word, from the old days when humanity meant something? Let's have a atheist debate concerning usury and mix maths, money and social conditions in a potent cauldron of opinion?

I don't think exponentials are a good thing in a money supply, and I don't think cohersion is the best way to make people achieve. My own opinion is that even low levels of interest, as permitted by Christians, eventually blows up into the kind of system wide fiscal debacle we've seen recently. Rational atheists should be against usury on both systematic and moral grounds. Now prove me wrong?
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#2  Postby byofrcs » Apr 05, 2010 6:51 am

Well other than atheism just being a claim about God, my anarchism wouldn't support usury as it feels like one group with capital ruling others without capital. It sounds like there is insufficient competition in the supply of capital.

Given capital is money and money is a liquid instrument that is trusted then we (the concerned 3rd parties) either increase liquidity and so compete or we or the victims go to the source of the trust and attack that (i.e. we ask the government to legislate or manage liquidity in this area).

If we are all are in a un-elected country then we have more problems than usury and as we cannot increase liquidity or ask the government to legislate or manage liquidity in this area then we must replace that government with one that will.

Sorted.
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#3  Postby Onyx8 » Apr 05, 2010 6:59 am

As an atheist I have no views whatsoever on usury as it is a different category.

As someone who calls himself Onyx8 here, I think usury is an exercising of power for personal gain and is undesirable, and eventually self-defeating in a society. It is one of the reasons why government is unfortunately necessary. People with a little power over others will strive to increase that power until someone wins the game of monopoly.
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#4  Postby Audley Strange » Apr 05, 2010 7:06 am

I do not think it necessary to claim Christians permitted Usury as if they were the only group practicing it. As for Usury, well if you wish to be exploited go for it. However it seems to me the contractural risk should be limited to the debtor solely. The lender should have no legal support to foreclose on a property where others are living (if such properties are in joint or multiple names) such debt should not be allowed to be transferred to next of kin. The only person who should be held responsible is the debtor themselves, this then may stop irresponsible lending.

I'd go further with this to consider such rules should apply to countries. The IMF and World Bank should not impose debt upon the citizenry of a country, because they give irresponsible loans to tyrants. No-one absolutely no-one anywhere should have any obligation to pay the debt of another. It should be written off by those stupid enough to take risks with their money.
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#5  Postby james1v » Apr 05, 2010 8:05 am

My opinion on usury changes according to whether i am the borrower or lender. :plot:
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#6  Postby apparentlydeluded » Apr 05, 2010 11:36 am

Well, loans at low levels of interest have been legal for ages. They're issued by these things called "banks", and have been permitted not just by Christians, but by virtually all economists and governments. There is a difference between bank loans - which are actually essential for the economy to run - and the high-interest personal loans issued by loan-sharks as described in the OP. That type of usury is effectively slavery. Indeed, the human trafficking trade today often works by loan-sharks putting poor people in debt and basically forcing them to sell themselves or their family. Irresponsible bankers, whose toxic loans created the current financial crisis, are a separate issue, as is the IMF/World Bank. Lending at interest is not in and of itself an evil thing, since again the economy wouldn't work without it and we'd probably be stuck in the 17th century without it. As with many things, it is a case of responsible application rather than outright endorsement or opposition.

But I do agree to a point that this has nothing to do with atheism. I say to a point since I am of the opinion that it becomes much harder to defend one position over another without a real point of reference. But that is probably another debate for another day. (Is there a "good without God?" discussion somewhere?)
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#7  Postby Blackadder » Apr 09, 2010 4:03 pm

I also don't see that atheism is relevant to this discussion except in the very general sense that it may affect one's ethical views. I think most people would take the same ethical stance on this, which is that usury is wrong as it allows those in a position of power to exploit those who are weak.

However the definition of usury is all important and it is not a static definition. I believe (although this is not based on empirical research) that MOST rational people understand usury to mean the charging of egregiously high compounding rates of interest in the full knowledge that the borrower does not have the means to repay the loan and will have an ever-increasing burden of debt on his/her back indefinitely.

I do NOT agree that usury means all interest or that all rates of interest are undesirable. There is a legitimate reason for the existence of interest and that is to represent the time value of money. Money tomorrow is not the same as money today. If you doubt this, try paying your grocery bill with "tomorrow money" and see what reaction you get. So if someone has your money and hangs on to it for a year before paying you back, I think most people would agree that you should be recompensed for that. The amout of recompense we call interest.

Which leads us back to the question of what rate of interest is just and what rate is unjust. In truth, it depends on the circumstances of each individual case, so framing laws for it is notoriously difficult. Picking a single rate is one (crude) way. Setting rules for how lenders should evaluate borrowers' ability to pay and punishing irresponsible or reckless lenders is more sophisticated but more difficult to police and enforce.

The topic of capitalism and the role that capital plays in the economy is a different and much wider one, so I restricted my comment to the OP's thread title.
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#8  Postby Mister Agenda » Apr 09, 2010 7:54 pm

By usury is charging interest meant or charging too much interest? If the former, lending will become an activity with no material benefits to the lender, and people will find it very difficult to borrow any money at all. If the latter, surely how much is too much would depend on the situation, but certainly one motivation to charge lower interest would be confidence that one's loan will be repaid on time and one motivation to charge higher would be lack of same. The reason people turn to black market loans (loan sharks) is because legitimate sources don't trust them to be good for it.

As far as not allowing a lender to recoup their loss if it involves eviction to seize the collateral for the loan, that's one way to go, but as a result a home would no longer be considered collateral for a loan, and home loans would be much harder to obtain. Some sort of insurance to cover the risk comes to mind, but such insurance would be very risky (and therefore expensive or hard to qualify for), given the borrower having the option of choosing not to repay the loan.

The lower the interest rate the less motivation to lend. The higher the risk of nonrepayment, the less motivation to lend. The more difficulty recouping losses if the loan is defaulted on, the less motivation to lend. There are plenty of other things people with money to invest can do with it besides loaning it at interest.

These are all things that can be changed by decree, but doing so has consequences that may be worse than the original problem. Assuming both sides of a loan contract are competent to manage their affairs and weigh advantages and risks at an adult level and neither side is being fraudulent, and no criminal acts are involved, the least harmful thing might be to honor their choices and accept that the outcome won't always be ideal. Most countries have trial-and-errored their way into their current lending policies and have evolved practices that are somewhere between outlawing usury and letting people sell themselves into slavery, and that arguably work well enough most of the time. No doubt there's room for improvement, which can be explored by making incremental changes, seeing what happens, an adjusting one's course accordingly.
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#9  Postby chaoservices » Jun 07, 2021 10:20 pm

If I might wake up a stale old thread, I have been thinking about usury alone for a while and I am happy to have somewhere to add to a conversation.

First I think we fixate overmuch on loans but should also consider any interest driven exchange of capitol as usury. This would then include stocks.

Furthermore, I think in particular what this conversation seems to miss is the Marxist perspective on it, wherein the value of labor is stolen through interest without adding value produced. I am of course dismissing the value added from the "risk" of lending. This is mitigated by Government protections that naturally tend to favor property owners over the borrower.

In particular I see flaws in contemporary markets, wherein people profit from imperfect information, demanding returns with ignorance to how those returns are gained.

Usury as a philosophy seems to address this, by saying: "Hey, if you loan someone $100 and expect $110 back tomorrow, you aren't doing a social good." Sadly it is muddled with religions whom largely seem to ignore it now anyhow.
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#10  Postby Spearthrower » Jun 08, 2021 2:21 am

The term usury today though means lending at unethical rates, whereas in the original context, it meant making any kind of profit from loaning money.

While not in the slightest bit religious, I actually think there are many problems with society that can be tracked to the practice of loans and this kind of capital driven value, and taking loans is something I've studiously avoided.
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#11  Postby romansh » Jun 08, 2021 4:13 am

Chaoservices
I have a few drinks in me at the moment so excuse me please.

There is the concept of time value of money, inflation blah blah. I can buy some tool today and create something, possibly of value now, that could be used in the coming years. Alternatively, I can sit on my money and use it in the future. In an uncompetitive world it would make no difference.

Then there is the money value of time, or at least the interaction of people with time.

But if people have an objection to paying interest on loans, I will hang on to their money for free.
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#12  Postby hackenslash » Jun 08, 2021 4:48 pm

chaoservices wrote:This is mitigated by Government protections that naturally tend to favor property owners over the borrower.


The irony of this is that among the most damaging and prevalent forms of usury in your neck of the woods is in fact imposed by government in the form of the deeply immoral bail system. Not just deeply unethical, but forced, and most damaging to those who can least afford it. If you can scrape together a surety for a bond, that's gone. Dead money that innocent people have to pay and have no chance of recouping. If you can't, you sit and rot having not been convicted and lose even more.

That's this atheist's view on a particularly pernicious form of usury.
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#13  Postby BlackBart » Jun 08, 2021 8:05 pm

My opinion on lending and borrowing is no more informed by my lack of belief in supernatural entities than it is by my lack of belief in Bigfoot.
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Re: Atheist views on Usury?

#14  Postby hackenslash » Jun 08, 2021 8:34 pm

Oh, I don't think they're commensurate at all. Bigfoot is an important factor in any sound fiduciary policy.
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