In modern law usury, is the practice of charging an illegal rate of interest for the loan of money. In Old English law, the taking of any compensation whatsoever was termed usury. According to known records
, Usury has been practiced in various parts of the world for at least four thousand years. During this time, there is substantial evidence of intense criticisism by various traditions, institutions and social reformers on moral, ethical, religious and legal grounds. The rationale employed by these wide-ranging critics have included arguments about work ethic, social justice, economic instability, ecological destruction and inter-generational equity. Presently the world economic system is based upon interest and usury, the recent collapse of capitalist system in USA had adverse effects at global level. Hence the significance of this menace is greater than ever before in the context of the modern interest-based global economy.
Usury in Ancient Western Political Philosophy:
Among the Ancient Western philosophers who condemned usury can be named Plato, Aristotle, the two Catos, Cicero, Seneca and Plutarch (Birnie, 1958). Evidence that these sentiments found their concurrent manifestation in the civil law of that period can be seen, for example, from the Lex Genucia reforms in Republican Rome (340 BC) which outlawed interest altogether. Nevertheless, in practice, ways of evading such legislation were found and by the last period of the Republic, usury was once again rife. It was the Democratic party in Rome who rededicated themselves to the cause of those suffering the burden of debt, and under the banner of Julius Caesar, a ceiling on interest rates of 12% was set, and later under Justinian, lowered even further to between 4% and 8% (Birnie, 1958). Clearly, this left fertile ground for the assault on usury which the Church would mount following its Christianisation of the Roman Empire.
With the expansion of trade in the 13th century, however, the demand for credit increased, necessitating a modification in the definition of the term.Except for Genesis 23:9
, Jeremiah 32:10
, and Ruth 4:8
, Scripture makes no reference to transaction procedures. Interest is however prohibited in Bible: “Take no interest from him or increase, but fear your God; that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.”(Leviticus 25:39
“You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite
, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent. On loans to a foreigner you may charge interest
, but on loans to another Israelite you may not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings in the land that you are about to enter and possess.”(Deuteronomy 23:19-20)
. The violation of this law was viewed as a great crime:”