Thursday, May 19, 2016

Usury and the Jewish people

So why did the Jew's often engage in Usury?  So too why did they recieve such blow back for doing such?  In his definitive book "The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit", Dr. E. Michael Jones explains both the Jewish and Christian reactions to usury:

"The problem was systemic, not easily solved by conciliar pronouncements. High interest rates and compounding are by their nature morally problematic. The Church, following prohibitions in the Hebrew Scriptures, tried to deal with it by moral condemnation. Christians were prohibited from exacting usury, so Jews had the field to themselves, with all of the social odium that went with it. Ecclesiastical prohibition, however, has only a limited effect on behavior, and in the 12th and 13th centuries, the prohibition was counterbalanced by the increasing contact between Christians and Jews made possible by the cities. Increased contact meant increased opportunity to borrow money, and that led to crushing indebtedness, and indebtedness led to the possibility of increased violence against the lender.  If people deep in debt to credit card companies and paying 21 percent interest per annum knew that burning down the house of the head of Visa they could eliminate their debts, they might understand the temptations faced by the medieval Christians in financial bondage to the Jews. Many of the financially naive borrowed from Jews to finance “immediate consumption, not productive enterprise. “ Exorbitant interest and compounding led many to financial ruin. The Jews, Glick notes were often guilty of “leading the least productive members of society into ruin by encouraging them to consume beyond their means.” The Jew could charge 40% interest compounded annually, insuring that his debtor would never get out of debt. In a situation like that the crusades, which promised suspension of payment on debt as a recruitment incentive, seemed like a godsend. But the crusaders would also remember the usury that compelled them to leave home when they arrived in Speyer and Mainz and saw the number of Jews living there. Again the problem was systemic:

The connection with money was a condition of Jewish life, and money was the very substance of survival. But money was also the devil’s own creation, and handling it with such intimacy only confirmed what the Gospel of John had declared: that Jews were truly children of the devil. With this in mind one readily understands the pervasive sense of insecurity that came to characterize so much of European Jewish life, even into the 20th Century.

The Jews were often constrained to maintain high interest rates because the conditions of their survival were more political than economic. The Jews charged 40% interest to the average person for small sums so they could provide large sums to the lord of the land at lower interest rates. “Usury of such dimensions,” Glick says

Was inescapable if [the Jews] were to meet the lords’ incessant demands for tax payments and low interest loans, but of course it meant that they soon had a reputation of greed and rapacity that confirmed everything said about them in the Gospels. Thus they were caught in a nasty trap: disliked and resented by the general populace because they did no visible work and seemed to flourish on the misfortunes of others; too weak to defend themselves, hence dependent on rapacious lords.

The nobility was tempted to expel the Jews if they ceased to provide money, which could only be raised by exploiting the population at large. As a result, “Jews became pariahs.” Hated by the people who borrowed money that could never be paid back, the Jews were “helpless, in need of protection and obliged to please their protectors” and the natural target for any proletarian revolution. Usury thus allowed Jews to buy “official protection at the price of public detestation.” Money lending is “by its very nature a socially isolated and isolating activity.” With each loan, the Jew’s position became more precarious because it engendered resentment. When the crusades seemed to suspend the laws of everyday life, moral inhibition was suspended too, especially when the crusaders came to towns where complete strangers, and therefore not bound by custom imposed by native places. Mob violence expressed the resentment."

Still think E. Michael Jones is nothing more than a bigot?  


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