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number of months until harvest time. Since interest charged for rupee loans in the same backward districts was reported as 24 36% per annum, the grain rate seems high. However, it is necessary to allow for the fact that grain was no doubt cheaper at harvest time than at seed time, and also that many borrowers of seed were not eligible for rupee loans. In rice districts of India, paddy seed loans were reported at 60% interest (term unstated). Among the Naga tribes cows and buffaloes have been loaned out; after one year the amount repayable was double, which equals 100%. (8) Loans of coin among the Naga brought less interest; for these 50% was quoted. 2. In Indo-China, in the early twentieth century loans were granted in rice at an interest rate of 50% repayable at the end of the next season. (9) 3. In the Philippines in this century credit among the remote Ifugao tribes took the form of loans in kind on which interest was regularly exacted. Rice loaned at any time had to be doubly repaid at the next harvest; this equals 100% 12/x. The loan of a pig required the return of two pigs of the same size. Loans of legal metallic money also commanded a 100% rate of return and compounding was rapid. A man who borrowed 3 pesos to meet a funeral expense owed 24 pesos three years later. The Ifugaos even had a form of discount called patang, in terms of which interest on the loan of an animal was paid in advance. (10) 4. On the Banks Islands in the Southwest Pacific a very highly developed credit and currency system in terms of strings of shells was closely connected with a system of men s clubs or secret societies. This was more ceremonial than economic. Admission to the clubs cost a large quantity of shell money, and promotion in rank cost even more. Shell money was little needed and little used for everyday life, but a poor man required shells to make a start in life by joining a society. The standard rate of interest for borrowing shells was 100% for any period. If a man had insufficient shells to join a society, he could loan what he had to others and in time the interest would provide him with his initiation fee. The unusual feature of this system was that a man was entitled to impose a loan on an unwilling borrower who had to repay with interest under threat of severe penalties. Nor is this the only case we find of coerced debtors. The situation was not unlike the gift economies of Homeric and medieval times, when a gift had to be requited by a larger gift. Kings gave abundantly to other kings and to their own nobles, but such gifts were often costly to the recipients. Even today social customs at times have encouraged retributive giving: for example, at Christmas time, birthdays, and weddings. The giver sometimes may contemplate a return with an agio. (11) 5. On Vancouver Island, in Canada, not long ago, blankets had taken the place of furs and wampum as the monetary unit of the Kwakiutl. These cheap white blankets, then valued at about 50 cents, formed the medium of exchange and valuation and were above all the standard of
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PREHISTORIC AND PRIMITIVE CREDIT AND INTEREST
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deferred payments. An elaborate credit system was developed which was also more ceremonial than economic. Five blankets borrowed for six months became seven; for a year they became ten. In modern banking terminology these returns equate to annual interest rates of 80% for a sixmonth loan and 100% for a one-year loan. A young man got his start in life by borrowing blankets to be repaid double in a year, and then he distributed them to his relatives as forced loans repayable within a few months at 300%. (12) This system of forced loans, called potlatch (gifts with a string attached), became so widespread that it had to be prohibited by the Canadian government. Wealthy Indians vied with each other to see who could give away the most blankets, all with the understanding that even more would be given back usually double. This became a reductio ad absurdum of the old gift custom more generally described as Indian giving. (13) 6. In Namaland, in Southwest Africa, cattle and beads were the original currencies. Debts were incurred in cattle (no rates quoted), and the difficulty of repayment often led to cattle raids into neighboring states. (14) In the Belgian Congo, brass rods were used extensively as a standard of deferred payment. Credit was frequently granted by native traders, and tribal law gave creditors extensive power to collect. In the French Sudan cattle were used until recently as currency for large transactions. Cattle loans were granted free of interest, but if a cow which was lent had a calf, the calf and the cow was claimed by the creditor. (15) Similarly, in Uganda and French Equatorial Africa cattle and sheep were the bases of credit. In the former the creditor expected every third new birth as interest. 7. In Northern Siberia, at least until recently, domesticated reindeer served as money. Loans were granted in reindeer. Among the Kirghiz of Siberia, horses and sheep served as money and were loaned out. The usual interest for such loans was 100%. (16) These scraps of primitive interest rates are in fact all a part of modern history, not of ancient history or of the prehistory of credit. Inferences from them should be made with caution. They do, however, serve to illustrate the actual operation of primitive credit in kind and in very general terms show the type and magnitude of return the creditor often expected. In most cases per annum rates were not conventional and our translation into modern credit terms is forced. The term was the natural term of the transaction: from seed time to harvest, for example. But since such a seed loan can often be made only once a year, it might have been a matter of indifference to both debtor and creditor whether the term was six months or twelve months. The earliest historical customs relating to credit and interest, which will now be examined, should not be considered the direct successors of the primitive customs and rates which have just been cited. Most, and probably all, civilizations that were able to record their own histories were
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