Debt seems to be everywhere in the news nowadays: debt ceilings, sovereign debt crises, credit crunches, senate battles over debt protection agencies, subprime mortgages, the creeping feeling that the United States has somehow hocked itself to China. It might cause one to wonder: how did all this happen? How did politics suddenly become all about who owes who how much money?
When I started researching my new book, "Debt: The First 5000 Years," it was partly to answer just such questions. What I discovered startled me. Credit systems, and with them, periodic debt crises, are as old as history. What's more, arguments about debt and debt forgiveness lie behind countless wars and revolutions, as well as behind the rise of Western philosophy, and just about all of the great world religions. They have come to shape every aspect of our lives in ways we are mostly completely unaware of.
Here are a few examples of what I found: