Freitag, 22. Juni 2012

Odious Debts

The first recorded word for ‘freedom’ in any human language is the Sumerian amargi, a word for debt-freedom. (David Graeber)
Debt has always been used to suppress and enslave people and many revolutions in the history of mankind have been about the cancellation of debts.

It is thus not surprising that the legality of debts have also concerned legal thinkers for a long time. 1927, legal theorist Alexander Nahum Sack formulated an international doctrine that describes what debts by countries should not be legaly binding in international law:
"When a despotic regime contracts a debt, not for the needs or in the interests of the state, but rather to strengthen itself, to suppress a popular insurrection, etc, this debt is odious for the people of the entire state. This debt does not bind the nation; it is a debt of the regime, a personal debt contracted by the ruler, and consequently it falls with the demise of the regime.

The reason why these odious debts cannot attach to the territory of the state is that they do not fulfil one of the conditions determining the lawfulness of State debts, namely that State debts must be incurred, and the proceeds used, for the needs and in the interests of the State.

Odious debts, contracted and utilised for purposes which, to the lenders' knowledge, are contrary to the needs and the interests of the nation, are not binding on the nation – when it succeeds in overthrowing the government that contracted them – unless the debt is within the limits of real advantages that these debts might have afforded.

The lenders have committed a hostile act against the people, they cannot expect a nation which has freed itself of a despotic regime to assume these odious debts, which are the personal debts of the ruler" (Source Wikipedia)
This doctrine has been frequently used in the past to argue for the cancelation of debts that preceding governments imposed on their successors.

It was invoked by the USA in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein, when the USA declared that the Iraky people should not be responsible for the debts of Saddam Hussein.

2008 Raffael Correa succesfully installed an international audit for the legality of Ecuadorian debts that freed Ecuador of a very large portion of their international obligations.

The Syriza Party in Greece demanded just such an audit for the debts that Greece has accumulated in the past. The relief that has been expressed in the EU about the victory of Nea Democracia probably resulted from the fact that this audit will not happen for one more legislative period (or until ND/PASOK are forced to resign).

The Greece documentary DEBTOCRACY looks into just a view of the debts that now serve as an excuse to crush Greece, and finds some that would be very inconvenient for the new rulers of greece and the troica.

The makers of DEBTOCRACY have recently finished another documentary called CATASTROICA that concerns itself with the privatisation measures that are imposed on Greece by the troica. Privatisation always follows after a country has accumulated ilegal debts that economic hit men have successfully "negotiated".

Both movies can be found online at

I myself also have doubts, that the debts that have been amounted in the crisis to "save" the international financial institutions are legitimate. Reading the above definition, the debts, that we as the tax payers are asked to pay, are very odious to my nose, as they are obviously very much "contrary to the needs and the interests of the nation".

Addendum: there is one obvious criteria I would definetly add to the above definition of odious debts.

"If a loan has been signed after the contractor of the debt has been influenced by the creditor with private advantages that have been offered by the creditor or third parties with the intend to corrupt the contractor, or if the contractor has been influenced by blackmail or force, the public should not be obliged to pay these debts."

I would guess that most of the current national debts could be argued to fall under this criteria.

Mittwoch, 13. Juni 2012

The paradox faith in science

There is one argument often coming up in discussion with self proclaimed optimists when talking about the upcoming energy crisis or climate collapse:

"Science, innovation and technology will take care of our problems; I have faith in our ingenuity."

Whenever I hear this, I usually give up all hope of reaching this person with logical arguments and try to change the subject. It is a paradox of religious proportions that requires blind faith and a life of indoctrination to accept. We have come to point in our history when (honest) scientists across most fields of natural sciences will tell you something like:

"Our scientific research shows that mankind has some grave problems and with these problems, we can’t help you anymore, there are physical limits to what technological progress can acchieve, you as a member of society and as a individual are the only one that can help you now."

But these honest scientists will be ignored and dismissed as doomsayers by the same persons that in the next sentence will praise the ingenuity of scientific progress.

In case of peak oil, it’s the geologists, the engineers, the physicists, the anthropologists, the chemists etc. that point out the limits of growth since more than 50 years. In the case of climate change it’s the IPCC that is made up of over 1200 climate scientists surveyed by 2500 peer reviewers that verified their results.

Be aware that I would not urge you to believe anything these scientists say, at least not before having doubted them and checked their methods, their motivations and their results.For science, more than anything needs doubt. Doubt is the driving force behind human ingenuity and the only true source of knowledge. Having faith in science is as much an untenable contradiction as proofing the existence of God.

But after having (at least by some estimates) checked scientific results, (and only then), blind faith is replaced by knowledge.

But the self proclaimed optimists and believers in scientific progress arrive in this blissful state of delusion by "intuition" only, usually without any real knowledge and ignoring proof they could see with their own eyes.

If they would, just for a minute, use the methods of scientific heuristics to gather knowledge by observing nature, instead of relying to being passively fed the half truths and regurgitated lies on TV, they might see the paradox they are caught up in.

Today, our media seems more successful in making people accept untenable contradictions than the Catholic Church ever was. It is if as we have lost all common sense we had since Aristotle has formulated the "law of non-contradiction" over 2000 years ago.

So, please, just as Albert A. Bartlett says in his famous lecture, recheck whatever I say, don’t trust me on faith, but more important, don’t trust yourself. We, as humans often lie to ourselves much more than anyone else ever does. The only cure to delusion and the trappings of our mind are the tools that science has invented.

If you want to have faith in something have faith, that in using these tools you will acquire knowledge, and knowledge you have gained in this way is something you can put your trust in.

Why cant innovation save us in the face of peak oil? Read here.