FINANCE AND WRITING – Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible – William N. Goetzmann
Argomento: invenzione della moneta e invenzione della scrittura… praticamente la stessa cosa – invenzione dei numeri e invenzione della finanza… quasi la stessa cosa – guerra al linguaggio ambiguo – tempio e burocrazia – mesopotamia: srl, interesse composto, ipoteca, joint venture, speculazione…
Clay tokens from the ancient Near East symbolizing economic commodities. They are thought to have been used as a system of accounting and are also believed to be the precursors of the world’s first written language.
Note:MONETA COME PRIMA SCRITTURA
Mesopotamia gave the world its first cities, first written language, first laws, first contracts, and first advanced mathematics. Many of these developments directly or indirectly came from financial technology.
Cuneiform writing, for example, is an unintended by-product of ancient accounting systems and contracts.
Babylonian mathematics owes its development to arithmetic and calculation demanded by its financial economy.
Financial technology made possible not just financial contracts but also financial thinking—conceptual ways of framing economic interactions that use the financial perspective of time.
finance is mostly about future promises. Promises are meaningless without the capacity to record and enforce them.
Note:TECNOLOGIA DELLA PROMESSA
The prehistoric roots of urban society in the ancient Near East extend back perhaps 7,000 years. By 3600 BCE, the cities of ancient Sumer arose around the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now modern Iraq
In short, the economy of ancient Near Eastern civilization required methods for producing and distributing basic foodstuffs locally to a concentrated urban populace and also ways of obtaining goods from afar.
Note:DALLA PERIFERIA AL CENTRO
writing; the ability to memorialize something now that can be interpreted unambiguously in the future.
TEMPLES AND TOKENS
Although the text is eloquent, the cuneiform script in which the epic was first recorded owes more to merchants and accountants than it does to poets.
Note:L’EPICA DI GILGAMESH
Virtually all of the earliest tablets from Uruk were accounting documents recording the transfer of goods and commodities. They were administrative records used by some central governing economic authority—almost certainly the temple.
Note:SCRITTURA E AMMINISTRAZIONE
In the classic model of the Sumerian economy, the temple functioned as an administrative authority governing commodity production, collection, and redistribution.
Note:IL TEMPIO AUTORITÁ CENTRALE
Schmandt-Besserat’s theory is not universally accepted—some scholars question the basic idea of a transition from tokens to writing and point out discrepancies in the notion of a temporal evolution from models to signs.
Note:DAI GETTONI ALLA SCRITTURA
2 FINANCE AND URBANISM
The ruler is the people’s representative to the goddess, and he presents to her the fruits of Uruk’s labor. Since most of these commodities were perishable, we must presume that the temple redistributed them rapidly in some fashion. Apparently the numbers from the Uruk tablets indicate that this was a big job—taxing people in kind and then redistributing the results. In fact, this economic system—the reliance on a central distribution center, may explain the movement of people into the cities, closer to the temple. Judging by the size of the city in its heyday circa 3000 BCE, Uruk was home to more than 10,000 people.
Note:RAPPRESENTAZIONE DELLA VITA QUOTIDIANA SUL VASO WARKA: TASSAZIONE E REDISTRIBUZIONE CENTRALIZZATA
An economy based on large-scale redistribution of goods cannot function on goodwill. It requires pre-commitment—promises of delivery that allow planning.
Note:COERCIZIONE E BUROCRAZIA
Not surprisingly, the oldest known credit obligations are lists of individuals and the amount of barley they owe to the temple….Thus, with the birth of an economy based on central planning and redistribution came indebtedness and taxes.
Note:LA PRIMA OBBLIGAZIONE… OBBLIGAZIONE TRIBUTARIA
THE APPEARANCE OF COMPOUND INTEREST An example of the complexity—and perhaps the logical extreme of the concept of exponential growth—is a document in the Babylonian collection of Yale University, a clay cone about the size and shape of a large pineapple. Enmetena’s claim of compound interest is based on the premise that the profits from one year can be reinvested in the same productive enterprise the next year.
A cuneiform document from a slightly later period in the third millennium BCE demonstrates not only the importance of raising livestock as big business, but also the extraordinary level of mathematical sophistication it required. Most interesting from our perspective is that it represents a key development in the software of finance. It is a mathematical model of growth used to formulate a long-term financial plan. The tablet came from a city called Drehem—a place associated with livestock…The text is an abstract model of geometric growth using mathematical tools….
All people, urban as well as rural, tend to lend things to one another. They do this even when the benefits from such helpful behavior are not immediately apparent. In small communities, people lend their tools and their time to one another. While they may expect reciprocity in the future, they do not explicitly write a contract to formalize it. Such cooperation is a form of insurance. You help out when you can afford to do so, and you call on your neighbors when you find yourself in need.
Note:PRESTITO E ASSICURAZIONE
This contrast between implicit and explicit contracts embodies civilization’s ambivalence toward lending—perhaps it just doesn’t feel right to charge a friend or neighbor interest, because reciprocity was our pre-urban method of adapting to crises.
Note:INTERESSE… CITTÀ… SCONOSCIUTI
The invention of debt and the emergence of interest to incentivize lending is the most significant of all innovations in the history of finance. Debt allowed borrowers to use money from the future to meet obligations in the present.
Note:L’INVENZIONE DEL DEBITO
the fundamental role that borrowing and lending played in the ancient economy in the Ur III period and suggests that even in a highly controlled and hierarchical economy, lending was essential.
Note:CENTRALITÀ DEL DEBITO
3 FINANCIAL ARCHITECTURE
Hammurabi’s code specifies the rate of interest on silver at 20% and on barley at 33⅓%. What is most important about the code is not what is says but what it represents. The code is a uniform legal framework for the entire the Babylonian empire. It covered everything from criminal law to family law, commercial practice to property rights.
Note:CODICE DI HAMMURABI COME DEFAULT
It would not matter what someone wrote on the surface of a bulla or on a cuneiform tablet if these documents were not recognized as a promise that, if broken, would be discovered and punished.
Note:LA LEGGE E I CONTRATTI
The ancient financiers in Ur, like other merchants, kept running accounts. Among Dumuzi-gamil’s records are indications that certain payments were credited to individuals. While not as sophisticated as credit cards, these “tabs” at various merchants and financiers minimized the need for hard currency.
Note:CARTE DI CREDITO
Courts existed in Mesopotamia to adjudicate property disputes, and it was not unheard of for lawsuits to span decades.
It is interesting to note that Mesopotamian legal codes guaranteed property rights to an even greater extent than they guaranteed what we now call human rights. For instance, a person had the right to sell him- or herself into slavery or pledge his or her liberty as collateral for a loan.
Note:GARANZIE DEL CREDITORE
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that, while the first loan contracts and the legal system that enforced them may have made the Mesopotamian economy efficient, they made life miserable for the working man and woman.
Note:COMMERCIO ANTEPOSTO AI DIRITTI UMANI
There is considerable scholarly disagreement about the extent to which the traders and merchants of ancient Mesopotamia were independent agents or worked for the state.
Note:C’ERA VERA IMPRESA PRIVATA?
The exciting thing for financial historians is that these equity contracts represent concrete evidence of a limited partnership—in which the limited partner assumed no liability beyond the value of the paid-in capital.
Many of the tablets deciphered by Van De Mieroop and other Assyriologists indicate that such financial tools as loans, mortgages, and limited partnerships were collaborative ventures.
Ea-nasir and the other investors in the Dilmun trade were something like capitalists. In the classical sense of the term, their money was used to make money. Although we do not have statistical information about the prevalence of this kind of capitalism in second-millennium Mesopotamia, it had important implications for the structure of society, and, in particular, the emergence of a stratum of economically independent individuals
Loan forgiveness edicts were common both before and after Rim-Sin’s reign. A cone tablet in the Middle Eastern galleries of the Louvre represents an edict issued by the populist reformer Urukagina. Circa 1900 BCE, this ruler promised to restore the power of ordinary citizens of the Mesopotamian city-state Lagash, who had suffered under the heavy taxes of the palace and the temple. The proclamation abolishes the tax collector and rids the city of usurers, robbers, and criminals. This not only abolished debts but also demonized financiers—
Note:RIFORME CONTRO LA SPECULAZIONE
Loans and investment contracts of the ancient Near East could be denominated in grain and even in units of labor; however, many of them were denominated in silver. This is strange, because silver is not native to Mesopotamia. Where did the silver come from, and how did it become a unit of accounting in the financial system? As discussed near the start of Chapter 1 the natural endowments of ancient Iraq were modest. Basic things like timber and copper had to be obtained through foreign trade….The ancient Mesopotamian city-states had to obtain silver in trade. In the early second millennium, roughly contemporaneous with the reign of Rim-Sin and the activities of the traders of Ur, one city in the northern part of Mesopotamia—in the region called Assyria (from which the name “Syria” is derived)—became a major trading entrepôt for silver…..
The Assur trade was financed by loans as well as sophisticated equity trading partnerships that extended over multiple years.
Note:COMMERCI E FINANZA
The relevance of the Assur trade and its aftermath is not simply that an extensive trade network existed—or that city politics could be organized around commercial principles, but rather that silver could be regarded as an essential input to economic life.