OPINION

Life in times of crisis

In the early 6th century BC, Solon, one of the «Seven Wise Men,» wrote that the evil in a city entered the home of every person, that neither doors nor high walls could keep it out. Evil in the early 6th century BC took the form of a serious economic crisis that led nobles to seize the best land while poor farmers, who were unable to pay their debts, were forced to become indentured serfs on their own land. The poor revolted when their anger and frustration reached the boiling point. That was when Solon was appointed ruler and his first act was to revoke all land seizures, cancel all debts and free all indentured farmers. That measure, enacted in other Greek cities, saved the country from the anarchy of civil war. We mention this to remind readers that the cycles of an economic crisis that cause explosive inequalities of income, with a small number of very rich people getting richer and many many more people sinking deeper into debt and poverty, are as old as civilization itself. Over a thousand years before Solon’s time, according to the Old Testament (Leviticus), God ordered Moses to have his people celebrate every 50 years, as that year would be one of jubilation, a cancellation of debts and the handing over of land to its former owners. So from Jehovah, the god of Israel, down to Solon and in more recent times to Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal, all the wise leaders of the world have tried to find solutions to the curse of overindebtedness. We must think seriously about all these lessons of the past now that another economic crisis is knocking on our doors, one that the experts say will be the most serious of the last 100 years, apart from the 1929 crash. Our prime minister’s assurances that the government will do what it can to avert the worst for more economically disadvantaged sectors of the population will have to be backed up with specific measures very soon.