Posted: Apr 09, 2010 4:03 pm
by Blackadder
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.