Saving the Nation by Breaking It Up

Usury Laws United States

Barbarians! The Visigoths sacked Rome, after they beat up Atilla the Hun’s army. We all get taught that the Dark Ages got started when the Roman “civilization” was destroyed by marauding barbarians. Any good Teahadist can tell you that America faces the same risk of destruction that ended the Roman empire.

The answer, of course, is secession. We will save the nation by breaking it up. We are, they say, under direct attack by marauding Latino and Moslem barbarians who want to sack our nation.

It’s easy to talk about the threats that barbarians pose, as long as we avoid talking about specifics. The Visigoths did beat up Atilla’s troops. And they did beat the vaunted Roman legions. But what else do we know about them?

They came to their fight with Rome from Dacia, a Roman province north of Greece. They started their travels and marauding when internal Roman politics left provinces like Dacia less integrated into, and less defended by, the Roman empire. Does this mean that a secessionist Texas might send the Texas Rangers, under honorary General, Chuck Norris, to sack Washington?

We learn about the Visigothic barbarians in school. We learn that their marauding opened the door to the Dark Ages. We don’t learn how the Visigoths actually lived. For example, the Visigoths had a set of written laws. Written in Latin. How often were you taught that barbarians wrote latin, or wrote law codes?

The Visigothic Code is available online today, in an English translation. It has a lot of really barbarian ideas. Like the Visigothic idea that the death penalty should rarely be applied even for crimes like murder. How uncivilized.

The Visigoths imposed penalties that sought to actually redress harms. If someone caused actual damage to another person’s property, cattle, tools, home, etc., they could face legal penalties intended to restore the victim’s property – to make the victim whole. Similarly, if damage were done to the public, a penalty might seek to restore the public property damaged or destroyed.

How this barbarian behavior contrasts with our modern, civilized legal system. Today, when a corporation sells poisoned food or child killing toys, or cars with brakes that won’t stop, our courts bend over backwards to protect the corporation from paying damages. If a corporation files billions of dollars of fraudulent Medicare claims, stealing taxpayer money, our civilized legal system might force the corporation to pay a few million dollars in fines. The corporation gets to keep the billions of stolen tax dollars. And criminal corporate executives can then run for public office.

The barbarian Visigoths also intruded into the private lives of people. In the sixth and seventh centuries, while feudalism in northern Europe and England was evolving to concentrate power in manor lords and their male vassals, the Visigothic Code was giving legal rights to women. Married women could own and control their own property. They could file and defend legal actions in Court.

They could be legal witnesses. They could make wills, determining who their heirs would be.

By 1620, when the Pilgrims brought English civilization to the new world, the Common Law had evolved to the civilized point of requiring that when a woman got married, she lost the legal right to own her own property, to manage property, to file or defend lawsuits, or even to appear as a witness in many court actions. Under the civilized English system, women were, essentially, under the care of husbands who would manage the family’s property, including drinking or gambling it away.

A civilized Englishman could leave his wife and children destitute, and wards of the state. In the Spanish colonies, descended from the Visigoths who conquered much of the Iberian penninsula, men didn’t have the right to dissipate their wife’s property, or to leave their children destitute. They had to contend with the very uncivilized, barbarian concept that women could take legal action to protect themselves.

The barbarian Visigoths had other bad habits, like holding their kings accountable to the people. The Visigothic Code applied equally to the most noble and the basest slave. Yes, the Visigoths held slaves – but not defined by race, as they will be in the newly seceded nation of Texassippi.

Are these the kinds of horrors that we might suffer more of if the latino hoards hordes invade us during the second Obama term? The corporate media is pretty unspecific about the threat we face. Clearly, corporate interests relish the idea of downward pressure on wages from invasions of latino workers. The only wages they want increased are executive salaries.

And what of the horrors to come from the invasion of Musloids and their barbaric Sharia law? One of the horrors of Sharia law is the prohibition on usury. The Moslem barbarians don’t believe in 29.99% credit card interest rates or hidden loan origination fees. They have some sick, uncivilized idea that banking should be fair and reasonable.

One of the sneaky tactics the Musloids may use to infiltrate their barbaric economic ideas into our civilization is using references to our own history. They may remind us that for most of European Christian history, Christians also believed that usury was wrong. In 1290, England’s King Edward I expelled the Jews from England to avoid paying interest on loans to the crown.

Around Europe, Jews were legally forbidden to join crafts guilds or engage in numerous professions. But they were encouraged to work as merchants and bankers, because they could provide monetary services that religion barred Christians from. With the advent of the printing press, and a clearer sense of how collecting interest could increase profits, Christian businessmen and politicians decided to reconsider usury.

By the end of the 14th century, a move was developed to redefine usury from meaning “all interest” to meaning “excessive interest”. This redefinition allowed churchmen to support “Christian” businessmen in their move into banking, loan sharking, and eventually 29.99% credit cards, and several hundred annual percent “payday lending”.

The concept of a form of law that does not allow such lending is plainly a horror to the business community. The modern, civilized system of interest being applied to everything from home mortgages to grocery shopping will be threatened by a system that bars such interest.

But it is pretty hard to build a strong PR campaign around the theme that “It’s good for you to allow us to charge interest that was forbidden through most of English history, and that is forbidden in the Bible.” So corporate message makers, and the politicians who work for them, need a better, simpler, more viscerally emotional message: “The people who want to end usury are barbarians, uncivilized, wife beaters, child abusers, beard wearers, fantatics.

These are the same message makers who told us in the 1850s that immigration by Irish Catholics would certainly mean the end of our noble experiment in free government. They told us at the turn of the 19th – 20th centuries that the flood of Italian and Eastern European immigrants would destroy our moral fiber and drain our pockets to feed lazy, shiftless workers and their ever expanding families.

During the dark ages, the civilized Church burned every ‘non-Christian’ book and scroll it could find. During the same centuries, Moslem governments championed education and preserved books and scrolls. The barbarian Moslems gave us Arabic numerals, astronomy, and the navigation tools with which Portuguese and Spanish explorers circled the globe.

Tom HallThey preserved the dialogs of Plato and the medicine of Aristotle and Hippocrates. They preserved for us the plays of Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles, all of which would have been lost to the torches of the more civilized Catholics.

Barbarians indeed – if this is what Teahadists fear, I’m not worried.

Tom Hall

Monday, 3 December 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on December 3, 2012
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About Tom Hall

Tom Hall is a family lawyer in West Los Angeles. He is from Boston, and was raised in Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Quakers) to think that religion was a progressive force. During the Vietnam War, he organized draft counseling centers and worked with groups training people in techniques for disciplined nonviolent demonstrating. After the war, he became just another yuppie working to make a comfortable life. The Bush administration shocked him back into social concerns. Now he’s working to see that the Obama administration lives up to its progressive promises. Tom can be reached at ProgBlog@aol.com