Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Memo to Obama: To Solve Financial Crisis, Declare a Jubilee Year

Debt relief for developing economies was all the rage in the 20th century. The IMF and World Bank forgave oodles of debt, with the support of Margaret Thatcher among others. Now, an item on Sudden Debt suggests that the USA practice IMF debt forgiveness on herself. I'll go one step farther...IMHO, it is time for a Jubilee Year::

The biblical requirement is that the Jubilee year was to be treated like a Sabbatical year, with the land lying fallow, but also required the compulsory return of all property to its original owners or their heirs, except the houses of laymen within walled cities, in addition to the manumission of all Israelite indentured servants.[7] The biblical regulations state that the Jubilee was only to come into force after the Israelites had gained control of Canaan,[8] presumably because it would otherwise require the Israelites to return the land to the Canaanites within 50 years; similar nationalistic concerns about the impact of the Jubilee on land ownership have been raised by Zionist settlers.[9] From a legal point of view, the Jubilee law effectively banned sale of land as fee simple, and instead land could only be leased for no more than 50 years; the biblical regulations go on to specify that the price of land had to be proportional to how many years remained before the Jubilee, with land being cheaper the closer it is to the Jubilee.[10]

Since the 49th year was already a sabbatical year, the land was required to be left fallow during it, but if the 50th year also had to be kept fallow, as the Jubilee, then no new crops would be available for two years, and only the summer fruits would be available for the following year, creating a much greater risk of starvation overall;[11] Judah haNasi contended that the jubilee year was identical with the sabbatical 49th year.[12] However, the majority of classical rabbis believed that the biblical phrase hallow the fiftieth year,[13] together with the biblical promise that there would be three years worth of fruit in the sixth year,[14] implies that the jubilee year was the 50th year.[15] The opinion of the Geonim, and generally of later authorities, was that prior to the Babylonian captivity the Jubilee was the intercalation of the 50th year, but after the captivity ended the Jubilee was essentially ignored, except for the blast of the shofar, and coincided with the sabbatical 49th year;[16] the justification given for this lapse of adherence to the Jubilee was that the Jubilee was only to be observed when the Jews controlled all of Canaan, including the territories of Reuben and Gad and the eastern half-tribe of Manasseh.
Basically it means cancelling debts. To those holding mortgage-backed securities...tough luck.