February 25, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts

Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, free farmers were defenceless in the face of Viking, Magyar, and Saracen raiders. The need for protection led to the enserfment of free people who accepted the suzerainty of those able to provide walled defenses and armed fighters to ward off attacks. As time passed, the attacks ceased but the feudal arrangements persisted, and the system became exploitative.

Today jobs offshoring and the financialization of the economy are again enserfing the people, but the cause is debt, not armed invaders. Today’s rentier class, unlike the one that emerged from feudalism, has never provided any service in exchange for the debt peonage that it has imposed.

Below is an excerpt from the Introduction to the German edition of Michael Hudson’s book, Killing the Host to be published in November by Klett-Cotta:

Today’s reversal of progressive values is a historical transition point much like what occurred from the Roman Republic to Empire during the century of Social War, 133-29 BC. Rome’s debtors and plebs lost in a wave of political violence. It was by murder that the oligarchic party prevented the reforms of Tiberius Gracchus in Rome after 133 BC. Julius Caesar suffered a similar fate in 44 BC after moving to take the demos into his camp. Other politicians urging debt cancellation also were killed.

Rome survived not by prosperity at home but by looting foreign regions. Arminius made a brave stand to resist Rome in 9 AD in the Teutoburg forest. But by that time the die was cast. Over the next few centuries the oligarchs imposed debt bondage on a quarter of the population, plunging the imperial economy into serfdom.

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