The global debt crisis. Solutions courtesy of Jesus and Caesar

by DIVVS·IVLIVS

You want to save the world? Avert the imminent global financial collapse predicted for the very near future by experts and snake oil salesmen alike? First you need to take a look at the original Lord’s Prayer. It doesn’t say “forgive us our sins” or “forgive us our trespasses”—it says: “…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Gospel of Matthew). It is possible that these “debts” were not exclusively meant as financial debts, because the later evangelist Luke did in fact write about “sins”. But within the theory that the historical person behind the Biblical figure Jesus was Julius Caesar, the mention of “debts” and “debtors” is only logical, and therefore to a large extent meant financially, because a partial debt amnesty was a core concept of Caesar’s sweeping economic reforms (leges Iuliae) to solve the devastating financial crisis that had struck the oligarchically ruled and exploited Roman “republic”. Historical Caesarian sources close to the Christianized concept that debts be remitted are for example App. BC 2.13.47 sq., Dio HR 38.7.4, and Suet. Jul. 20.3.2: publicanos remissionem petentis tertia mercedum parte relevavit ac, ne in locatione novorum vectigalium inmoderatius licerentur, propalam monuit. At any rate, the prayer for a remission of debts is perfectly explicable in light of the demand by the Roman populares of Caesar to remit all debts (cf. also Badian 1972, passim, i.a. 102). But Caesar’s macroeconomic revolution went much further.

A learned essay by Martin A. Armstrong, an economist and ex-convict sometimes regarded as a market genius, sheds a bright light on Caesar’s actions, and on why the same actions would be instrumental in solving the current global financial crisis. (The article is embedded below.) His essay is however not without historical error. He states that the wish for a complete remission of debts mostly came from the populares: “The core of the populares from the time of the Catiline Conspiracy was the cancellation of all debts” (12). Armstrong states that Catilina was a popularis, although he writes earlier that “Catiline served under Pompey’s father in the Social War of 89 BC, and it is said he became such a zealot in Sulla’s proscriptions, he killed his own brother-in-law” (5). Here we have proof that Catiline was not a popularis, but a Pompeian and a Sullan, i.e. an optimas. Were there more Optimates in favor of debt cancellation? For example, Dolabella did favor novae tabulae, but was Dolabella an Optimate or a Popular? Didn’t Dolabella remove the commemorative column at Caesar’s bustum after Caesar’s assassination, to the optimate Cicero’s delight and to the popular Mark Antony’s dismay? So we know of at least two prominent Optimates in favor of a remission of debts, and we must therefore ask if this wish was really propagated only by the populares, or if it was in fact the last “popular” straw grasped by a group of venturous Optimates who had speculated with high risks during their runs for political offices and financially ruined themselves in the process. Did they adopt this core demand of the populares to save themselves? Or was it originally an optimate demand all along?

At any rate, Julius Caesar’s financial politics worked. And they worked so well in many ways that the Optimates needed to assassinate him—especially because of his land reform. One important question remains: Is there currently a statesman like Caesar (and not only a mere politician) who is capable of understanding the whole system, who knows what needs to be done—and who has the guts to actually get it done?

[Armstrong MA. 2009. "Anatomy of a debt crisis that appears, only Julius Caesar ever understood". Armstrong Economics. Fort Dix. Additional editing and reformatting by Tommie Hendriks.]

The current 2012 version of the article has been published by Armstrong here.

Nota bene: Caesar’s financial and economic reforms are a huge but rarely mentioned historical subject, and they will need further analysis, including their connection to the Gospel, e.g. the “tribute penny”. If time allows, we will add another article on the these important issues in the future.