Kantian Courage


Debt needs to be repaid. The debtor must pay the creditor. The British anthropologist David Graeber traces the history of debt in human civilizations in his book “Debt: the first 5000 years” argues that debt dates back much farther than money, for example. For millennia, people recognized debts they had to each other that could never be repaid. Every village used to have countless unwritten debt scrolls that kept track of its internal relations. In relation to other villages and tribes, the patterns of economic activity borrowed heavily from the rules of courtship and war. A peaceful trading relationship could escalate into violent confrontation. But who ever thought of framing these manifestations of economic activity in terms of human rationality? Nothing is as irrational as courtship, or as illogical as war.

Also ancient people indebted to the Gods, too, but no animal sacrifice could ever equal the value of creation itself, or could balance the sheets by compensating the Gods for gifting humans with life. In ancient times, words for “debt” were used synonymously with words for “sin”. Economic and moral language overlapped, and we’re still trying to untangle them today. Of the thirty allegories in the New Testament, nineteen have a direct connection to economics.

Apart of the surrealists people felt indebted to their parents but were unable to ever compensate them for all the good they received as children.

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