Read Chapter XXI - Wealth decays of Usury A Scriptural‚ Ethical and Economic View , free online book, by Calvin Elliott, on

All man-made wealth is subject to inevitable decay. Aristotle said, “Labor produces all wealth,” but the product has no sooner left the laborer’s hands than it begins to perish. The vital energy that produced it must follow to preserve it from the ravages of time.

Take the life, the vital part, from the body, and corruption begins. So with all that has been produced, withdraw the vital force and ruin immediately follows. The vital energy must ever be present and active to preserve it.

Fruits and grains and provisions of all kinds for human food rapidly perish. The laborer must be continually active, producing and preserving, or the race would be starving in a fortnight. Even the miraculously bestowed manna became corrupt in a night. It had to be gathered day by day.

Flocks and herds need the shepherd’s care. They are subject to disease and natural enemies and are short lived, so that however large and strong, and healthy the herd of cattle, or the flock of sheep, it would be soon scattered and lost to the owner without watchful care.

Tools and instruments of production, great or small, if used, soon need to be renewed, or if unused perish even sooner. Neglected they speedily decay. The locomotive left unattended on the track would soon be utterly useless from the destructive elements of rain and heat, frosts and sunshine.

The palace, that floats on the ocean, would be a prey to barnacles, to winds and waves, to shoals and rocks, and would soon disappear, without the constant hand of intelligent vital energy to direct and preserve it. Houses untenanted and uncared for soon decay. Leaks unstopped, broken windows unrepaired, and vermin unrestrained, soon make them unfit for habitation. Farms and plantations go back speedily to weeds and wilderness when uncultivated. Great cities like Babylon and Nineveh are soon so covered with dust that we have to dig to find their ruins.

Decay is written over every form of man-made wealth. There is needed constantly the touch of the laborer for its preservation.

Gold, silver and precious stones are the least subject to decay. They are not, however, made, but found, and simply refined and polished. The indestructibility of silver and gold have made them the money metals of the world, quite as much as their rarity, their beauty and malleability. In them wealth could be stored and moth and rust would not corrupt.

But even gold and silver will disappear. The thief will break through and steal. They must be, therefore, carefully guarded. The tax or levy of the government for its part in the protection must be met, so that even gold and silver must also gradually slip away.

Decay is upon all wealth and the hand of the laborer must be ever present for its preservation.

This law is universal. Even the Divine Creator must continue to uphold his creation. His sustaining hand cannot be withdrawn. He must preserve by his power and ever guide and direct, or disorder and chaos will ensue.

Usury or interest presumes to ignore this order of nature and demands not only that the borrower shall resist this tendency of capital to decay, but shall also pay a price for the privilege.

That any one should undertake to care for and preserve the property of another without compensation is unreasonable, but that any one should voluntarily pay a premium for the privilege can only be explained by misguided judgment or a perverted moral sense.

No one would be responsible for, and care for and pay tax upon the money of another and himself get from it no return. Trustees and administrators receive, and feel they earn, a commission for this caring for the property of others.

When this wealth is in the form of a tool, or manufacturing plant, the responsibility is greater. The owner asks that it be preserved perfectly. There must be no decline in value, from new improved machinery, and all accidents must be made good; if destroyed by fire, it must be rebuilt. To take this for a year or term of years, is a responsibility no one would feel justified in assuming in justice to himself. He would be using his own vital force to preserve the perishable property of another.

A man has a farm, fertile and well improved, and well stocked. He is to be absent for a time. He asks as a favor that another watch it with care, preserve the stock in condition, if any die, replace them, and in short, so preserve that he shall have the farm at his return, just as fertile, the stock just as young and valuable, the implements unworn and no signs of decay on the buildings; if any burn, rebuild them. This would be a favor only the kindest and weakest of neighbors or friends would undertake, and what no man would be justified in asking of another. This is loaning without interest and this is the borrower, who pays only the principal and no increase.

The usurer says, Care for my property and pay me for the opportunity. Keep it intact. Make good every loss and return to me an increase which you by your energy and effort may produce.

The rates of interest greatly vary. The average in the United States is about seven per cent., by statistics of the government only recently issued. At seven per cent., interest paid annually or added to debt for ten years, the debt is doubled.

The usurer or interest taker says, You take this hundred dollars and care for it for me for ten years and then bring me two hundred dollars. Take this wheat and this corn and in ten years bring me back just twice the amount. Take these horses and these sheep and cattle and care for them for ten years and return them just as good as they are now, and other horses, cattle and sheep in equal number, which you have produced in these ten years.

Take this shop with all its tools and implements and care for it so that in ten years you can return it to me in as perfect order as now, and also build me with your labor and energy another shop, just like it, and equip it in every way just as complete as this, and on my return give both to me. Take this farm, fertile as it is, with its buildings and animals and implements, and preserve them perfectly, not a thing shall decay or decline in value; make good every loss, and at the end of ten years return it to me and also another farm which you have earned during these ten years, of equal acreage and fertility, equally improved with live stock and implements.

The usurer gains the preservation of his own perishable property, and he gains also the product of the vital force of his victim.

This law of decay is a natural limitation to the accumulation of any producer. As decay begins at once, a part of the vital energy must be expended in the preservation of that already produced. As the accumulations increase, more energy is required for its preservation, and less remains for active production. Time does not relax his work of ruin, and the resisting energy must be constant. The tendency to decay is such that soon the energy required to preserve that already gained leaves none to produce, and the accumulations must cease.

To this point the rich fool in the parable had come. He had abundance accumulated and the problem was to preserve it, until he could consume it. “This will I do, I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”

The usurer hands his goods to another to build the barns and keep for him, while he is free from its care; and, more, he requires of his victim not only that he shall preserve, resisting all decay, but that he shall actually pay him for the privilege.

Had the rich fool not lived in his day, when usury was a crime, but in this age of folly, he would have apportioned his goods among his foolisher neighbors upon interest, to keep for him, and then not only he, for “many years,” but his posterity forever, could be at ease, eating, drinking, and making merry. The silly borrowers would supply all the needs of his endowed family, for the privilege of caring for the goods.