Because the Weekend Economists thread got so long (50 entries) I'm spilling over here...I do recommend You All wade through the WEE first, since there is some method to the madness...
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun by MICHAEL HUDSON
Last week I attended a wonderful conference in the university town of Tübingen, Germany, on “Debt: The First 3500 Years,” to bring ancient historians together to discuss David Graeber’s book Debt: The First 5000 Years.
I was enlightened by two papers in particular. Doctoral fellow Moritz Hinsch from Berlin collected what Socrates (470-399 BC) and other Athenians wrote about debt, and the conference’s organizer, Prof. John Weisweiler, presented the new view of late imperial Rome as being still a long way from outright serfdom. The 99 Percent were squeezed, but “the economy” grew – in a way that concentrated growth in the hands of the One Percent. In due course this bred popular resentment that spread in the form of debtor revolts, not only in the Roman Empire but that of Iran as well, leading to religious reforms to limit the charging of interest and self-indulgent greed in general...
Socrates’ views on whether bad debts should be paid
In Book I of Plato’s Republic (380 BC), Socrates discusses the morality of repaying debts. Cephalus, a businessman living in the commercial Piraeus district, states the typical ethic that it is fair and just to pay back what one has borrowed or received. Socrates replies that it would not be just to return weapons to a man who has turned into a lunatic. Because of the consequences, paying back the debt would be the wrong thing to do.
At issue is not the micro-economic morality of paying a debt, but how this act affects society. If a madman is intent on murder, returning his weapon to him will enable him to commit unjust acts. The morality of paying back all debts is not necessarily justice. We need to take the overall consequences into account...A similar logic may apply to today’s debate over whether Greece should pay back the IMF and European Central Bank (ECB) for the money that they have provided since 2010 to save bondholders from losses on loans (largely by French and German banks). The terms oblige the Greek government to pay in full instead of writing down debts to reflect the actual ability to pay.