Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Current Financial Crisis – a Cause for Jubile?


It was my wife’s turn to pick the Movie of the night, so I settled in for the expected chic-flic. She surprised me with a half-way action adventure movie called, The Librarian. Okay, for those of you who have seen it, compared to Indiana Jones, it’s a chic-flic, but it does have some action sequences as I recall. There was a quote in there that caught my attention, “In the making of the [the pyramids of Giza], these primitive people reached beyond themselves and touched the Divine. If you were to move just one stone by an inch the whole thing would come down.” I got to thinking . . . how did they do it?

So, here’s my disclaimer – I’m an engineer. I don’t know financial systems or understand economies all that well, but I’d like to point out an ancient financial system, that – like the pyramids – worked. It stands tall and is a rebuke to the many modern disasters we are seeing fall around us, and like the pyramids, if you were to move one stone by an inch, the whole thing would come down. It's the ancient practice of the Jubile.

The word Jubile derives from the Hebrew word for ram’s horn. It is a Jewish custom where every fifty years rams horns were blown and debtors and slaves were set free. All mortgaged land was returned to its original owners. In short, the entire financial structure was reset. It’s the ancient world’s equivalent of a financial stimulus package, only focused on the poorest of the people. The benefit went to those at the bottom.

Could Jubile be considered a financial wonder of the world? Look at the prosperity of the Jewish people through time. Although the year of Jubile wasn’t their only financial precept, it was one of the most unique. Nash Equilibrium, one guiding concept for the successful days of our own financial markets, is similar, though not close enough.

What would happen if every 50 years we set our nation free from mortgage bonds, credit card debt, auto loans and school loans? Would we become a nation of financially strong individuals, educated enough to make new, strong financial decisions?

Would it erode at the class system and set free-spirited individuals on an equal footing with the fiscally conservative. Risk takers would have a safety net, innovative thinkers would take a stronger hold on our industry base. American ingenuity would have a greater chance. The strangle-hold of the box-marts would be broken and we would see independent, small businesses making it.

We would need to know it was coming.  Financial institutions would need to prepare. There would be losers. We would still have international obligations to meet. There would be adjustments, but the people, the core of our society would benefit and we would see financial renewal from the bottom up.