Related material at the page on: Interest
"When we speak of “usury” in modern language, we usually mean the practice of lending money at an interest rate that most people consider excessive. Historically, however, there have been long periods of time – especially during the last 1500 years – when the common definition of “usury” included any amount of interest charged on a loan, not just an excessive amount. It is worth talking about this changing definition as it affected both consumer and business lending, because that interplay has strongly affected the financial concepts and legal norms that now affect modern consumers.
During the first few thousand years of recorded history, it was considered normal to charge some level of interest on loans – at first, on “productive” goods like seeds or cattle, which could physically produce offspring and crops, and later, on “nonproductive” goods like precious metals. There was always a need for some people to borrow from other people, which could lead to enslavement of a debtor or their family if debts weren’t paid back. Once central governments began to evolve, they attempted to regulate the formalities of the loan process, including the amount of interest that could be charged on personal debts. This was intended to protect people from loan sharks – though it took a long time before the physical enslavement of debtors was outlawed, and some would argue that the forms of debt slavery that exist today, such as sharecropping and low-wage employment, are only different in degree, given the amount of human labor that is directed at paying off interest owed to bankers and rentiers.
Once concepts of business investment and banking began to develop, the focus moved more toward commercial lending, and interest rates started to vary. For example, normal loans to Greek cities or wealthy individuals for business purposes would be 10-12% from 600-300 B.C., and a few points lower for the next two centuries (to borrowers with the best credit). Meanwhile, risky, unsecured personal loans to poorer debtors varied wildly, often commanding high interest rates, which was where the usury protections were really needed. For example, fourth century B.C.E. Greek usury rates were often 36% per year, but at times climbed to 48% per month for loan sharks (over 500% per year), or even common “payday lenders” who were known to demand up to 25% interest per day – which would equate to 9000% per year. Pawn shops also lent at 36%. Business loans were often secured by property, and those debtors often had better credit in general, so the standard interest rates for commercial loans were usually a lot lower. Overall, the prevailing interest rates tended to decline as the world center of commerce moved from Babylon (in modern-day Iraq) to Greece (which was much more of a free-market society), and then from Greece to Rome (a more agricultural society), and to Byzantium/Constantinople (where the influence of Christianity became prominent). (Rates were always lowest when commercial society was flourishing; in times of turmoil and uncertainty, they would go up. This begs the question: does the charging of high interest rates to non-wealthy consumers interfere with their economic development, since economic development of business is promoted by low interest rates?) Meanwhile, religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism all had prohibitions against usury at some point – some for longer stretches than others, and in the case of some schools of Islam, continuously.
Importantly, the interest rates in Western Europe during medieval times (which were contemporaneous with the Constantinople-based empire) were a lot higher than those Byzantine rates, and were also above the higher-end Roman or Greek rates, a fact that likely affected Christian attitudes toward interest in general. Christianity had been critical of usury, first by clergy, then by the laity as well; by 800, the legal code of Charlemagne forbade usury completely, which was defined as any debt “where more is asked than is given.” The Church began excommunicating usurers several decades later, and usury was considered a criminal offense. The ban was originally focused on pawnbrokers and loan sharks who charged extremely high interest rates on personal consumption loans to the poor. However, eventually it expanded – by the 12th century, charging interest on a mortgage was considered usury by the Church, as were credit sales above the cash price. Usurers were expected to pay restitution, like thieves. This Church policy didn’t result in the elimination of usury in Europe (though there were occasional “reform” waves banning usury), but it did affect how people thought about usury, including social and political leaders. Forms of credit that wouldn’t involve usury began to evolve, and different theories of interest developed – for example, it was acceptable to charge extra for a loan if the money was for reimbursement for a loss the lender experienced because of the loan, but it was unacceptable if the extra charge was intended to be an outright gain for the lender. Fractional-reserve banking – the practice of lending out more in credit than one had in cash reserves to pay depositors – also began to spread around this time, beginning with goldsmiths who realized they could “create money” by lending out more in gold certificates than they actually had in their stash of gold bars, since depositors didn’t demand all of their gold at the same time. “Interest” began to refer to the compensation for delaying repayment of a loan, which opened the door for charging penalties (e.g., late fees) that would not be considered profit from the loan itself. Fees for the time and effort of making the loan were also imposed; however, the fact that a loan was risky would not justify making a profit from the loan (in contrast to the modern rationale justifying high interest rates on high-risk loans). Eventually, though, Europe became more commercialized, and merchant banking became prominent, which resulted in usury prohibitions again narrowing their foci to “obvious” usurers like loan sharks, rather than commercial banks.
Still, it wasn’t until London became the world financial center toward the end of the 18th century that usury laws became weakened in Catholic countries. Since around 1530, Protestants had been tolerant of modest interest rates, saying that Scripture only forbade “biting usury,” as opposed to usury that is not injurious to another person. This allowed commercial interests and economists to begin exploring and testing the economic effects of different interest rates. England began allowing lending at interest during the 16th century, and for several hundred years after that, interest ceilings were set at rates below 10%, until England completely eliminated the legal limit on interest rates in 1854 (right around the time the U.S. economy began to supersede the British Empire as the world’s largest). Meanwhile, the Catholic Church declared around 1830 that all interest allowed by law could be taken by everyone. (However, some countries have reintroduced usury limits, such as Japan – which allowed interest rates over 100% in the 1950’s, but due to widespread consumer debt and scandals involving extreme tactics used by moneylenders to obtain loan repayment, has reduced its rates to 29.2% and then 20% in recent years, with lending limits based on borrower income (1/3) – prompting some moneylenders to leave the market. South Korea, meanwhile, allowed registered moneylenders to charge up to 66% to borrowers, which has led Japanese lending firms to enter its lending market since the Asian debt crisis of 1997-98; the legal limit there is currently 39%, but illegal loansharking is common, according to the Korea Times.)
Prior to declaring independence from Britain, the American colonies had adopted versions of the English usury statutes. In fact, every state or territory had a general usury law by 1886, according to the FDIC report cited in FN 10. Court interpretations surrounding those usury laws, both in the United States and pre-revolutionary Britain, have become part of the common law of the various U.S. states. Variations on these statutes are still in effect in the vast majority of U.S. states. These statutes are usually thought of as “general” usury laws because they attempt to set a ceiling for all loans of money, or “forbearances of debt.” Their particular limits vary. For example, a local sampling of state laws shows that New York has a “general obligations” law prohibiting annual interest rates above 16%, Connecticut and Vermont prohibit loans at more than 12% per year, Massachusetts’ limit goes up to 20%, Pennsylvania is 25%, New Jersey allows interest rates on personal loans to be as high as 30%, and New Hampshire is one of a few states that has no general limit at all. Loans that exceed the usury rates would not be legally enforceable, at least not to the degree that they exceed the usury limit (though some courts would declare the entire loan invalidated). Some states also have criminal law triggers for usury that are higher than the general limit; for example, the New York law makes it a crime to charge more than 25% interest on a loan. There is also a federal racketeering law (RICO) that kicks in whenever an interest charge exceeds twice the usury limit of whichever state law applies. See 18 U.S.C. § 1961." (http://www.nycga.net/groups/alternative-banking/docs/usury-laws-research-v-2-work-in-progress)
Common arguments for and against Usury Laws
"There have been numerous arguments made over the years against the practice of lending money for a profit (that is, charging interest in excess of the principal of a loan), along with the specific instances in which the interest rate exceeds the level that is considered socially acceptable or reasonable. Some of the arguments are based on morality, particularly the arguments with religious roots, while others are based on economic, sociological, environmental and anthropological concepts. Opponents of usury laws generally argue that they are socially disruptive despite “good intentions,” because when the usury rate is lower than the market rate for a particular loan, it discourages legitimate lenders from making that loan, which negatively affects potential borrowers, especially less creditworthy borrowers.
Some of these arguments (many of which interrelate) are:
-Income via interest extracted from another is unjustified when it’s not the product of one’s labor; profits from one’s own labor are distinguished from profits acquired simply by owning something, like land, that requires the borrower to add labor before it is fruitful (traditional objection in many faiths, societies, and also in Marxist doctrine);
-Money becomes an end in itself, rather than a socially-contracted abstract mechanism to facilitate the relationship of supply and demand, which diminishes the importance, and full reward, of ordinary labor;
-Strict usury laws prevent middlemen who control credit from exploiting small borrowers, particularly the needy and destitute who require personal consumption loans. A counterargument is that such borrowing for necessities is inevitable, and usury laws make things worse because “loan shark” demand rises when other lenders can’t make loans at market interest rates – plus, the usury laws increase the loan shark interest rates further by adding the risk of legal prosecution to their cost of doing business. In this view, it is better and more economically efficient to allow people the freedom to contract, and address usury issues by educating borrowers about money, especially since usury laws can also be creatively evaded by all sorts of mechanisms, like sale-and-leaseback agreements.
-Usurious rates cause poor people to pay more for their money than wealthy people – this redistributes resources from the poor (seeking to buy basic necessities with money that has a huge marginal utility to them) to the rich (seeking to buy luxury goods with money that has relatively diminished value), and becomes part of the apparatus by which a wealthy class develops a plutonomy. (Several studies cited in the Visser/McIntosh paper, including the National Consumer Council’s 1995 study, discuss this mechanism; it also happens on the level of debtor nations who are impoverished by interest payments.) Through the mechanism of compounding interest, money becomes self-perpetuating power in itself, a “quasi-monopoly,” instead of a mediating agent. Arguably, this is unconstitutional, given that money is a government service to which everyone should have equal access.
-Usurious rates interfere with goods being put to the best social use – instead, apportionment is based on purchasing power; a counterargument would be that high interest rates actually ensure money will be put to its best use, because they discourage the wasting of money; usury laws arbitrarily exclude high-risk borrowers from the equation, even if their use of the money would be socially beneficial
-Usury is one of the attacks on the poor that punishes people for economic downturns or their individual failure to earn a lot of money (regardless of the social utility their activities have), making society unstable by leaving some people without resources, and amplifying the social exclusion of the relative poor;
-Social cohesion is damaged when people prey on each other rather than aid each other’s progress; in general, the pursuit of commercial interests and personal wealth is a distraction from serving the community/state;
-In an economy that relies on consumption, it’s destructive and immoral to promote high-interest, credit-based spending as the way to give lower-income people purchasing power; also encourages bank profit expectations that foster speculative behavior, risk of bailouts. Usurious interest rates are a part of credit expansion that has replaced wage increases for the labor force, in order to perpetuate consumption.
-Purchasing power decreases due to high interest rates – prices go up, no one benefits – compare to interest rates in flourishing business environment;
-Our money is issued as debt, so interest payments are constant – usury is part of that system; it’s wrong for commercial banks to hold monopoly on money/credit creation process, at zero cost to them
-Usury discounts future value in favor of present value, which is disastrous – and the higher the discount rate (based partly on interest rate), the more pronounced the effect. The depletion and exhaustion of resources is encouraged by the idea that it’s better to have x amount of currency now, rather than later; “economic rationality” can actually lead to the extinction of a species, and the prioritizing of short-term investments over long term investments, in which benefits come much later than costs. Financial economy does not reflect ecological economy (which does not function based on compound interest). Rather than observing principles of intergenerational equity (e.g., future generations have a right to the land and the environment as well as present ones), it exploits the future for the interests of the present.
-Usury acts as an agent of economic instability by making interest-based economies subject to “boom and bust” cycles;
-J.M. Keynes – argued that a ceiling on interest rates would increase investment, because most economic problems come from people preferring to save rather than to invest money – low interest rates would let borrowers borrow more in order to invest, while lenders would invest more in capital because of lower lending rates. He argued that this would give borrowers more cash, which would be used for consumption. A counterargument is that arbitrarily low interest rates discourage savings, placing upward pressure on those same rates; this requires either the creation of money or credit at an accelerating pace, which contributes to inflation, or non-price rationing, which reduces efficiency. Bowsher (see FN 6) reports that when interest rate ceilings were imposed in certain states, banks shifted their money to states with more permissive usury laws, allowing businesses in those states to be more competitive; passing statutes that make the usury laws inapplicable to corporations (as some states have done) winds up giving them a competitive advantage over other types of firms, or individuals.
-Silvio Gesell – condemned interest because it caused sales prices to be more related to the “price” of money on the market than to the actual needs of people, or the quality of the products. He argued that money should be treated as a public service that was subject to a use fee; this was tested via the “stamp scrip movement,” which some say was destroyed when its success began to threaten banking monopolies. Successors to Gesell (e.g., Margrit Kennedy) argue that interest functions as a cancer in our social structure, and that inflation-free money should be adopted, with a circulation fee acting like a negative-interest-rate mechanism. The key obstacle to an “anti-hoarding” scrip approach seems to be the difficulty of getting alternative schemes started, and getting people to use them when it is a lot easier to use other kinds of money (as discussed in the Federal Reserve article cited in FN 8).
-Adam Smith – he argued that usury laws were justified, because high interest rates would leave borrowing to “prodigals and projectors” who wouldn’t be as likely to be able to pay back the loan, as opposed to more responsible people, who would not be willing to borrow at such high interest. A counterargument to this position is Jeremy Bentham’s position that innovative investing is responsible for economic progress, which carries high risk, so it requires high rates of interest to fund it. Established businesses and wealthy individuals can borrow at lower interest rates, a disparity with an anticompetitive effect that spreads from credit markets to goods and services markets.
(In fact, the Old Testament proposed a “Jubilee” process every fifty years, where all debts would be forgiven, recognizing the need for a corrective mechanism to the effect of compounding interest!)" (http://www.nycga.net/groups/alternative-banking/docs/usury-laws-research-v-2-work-in-progress)
By Carolyn Elliott:
"To begin, the banking industry's practice of usury is a practice that was recognized in spiritual traditions throughout the ancient world as an act which promoted division, suspicion, and alienation within a community. I think we need to reconsider ancient and indigenous attitudes towards usury in order to understand the extent to the unity and spiritual virtue of the United States has been violated by Wall Street.
Today, "usury" means "lending at unbearably high interest." In the ancient world, usury just meant charging any interest at all on a loan.
Lending at interest itself is now widely accepted and taken for granted as perfectly acceptable and normal. Loan-sharking, or lending at really high and outrageous interest, is the only stuff that raises eyebrows now. Loan-sharking on the part of the banks is a large part of what created the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
We can keep in mind that the banks have practiced the intense form of usury-as-loan-sharking and that this practice has led to the current widespread poverty and outrage, but in order to understand the severity of loan-sharking, I want to start by discussing the problematic spiritual dimensions of usury, period.
In order to understand why usury (which is now so widely accepted) would be seen as a spiritual problem, we first need to understand a little bit about the way gifts work.
The Increase of the Gift
An interest-free loan is a form of a gift. For example: if I give you an interest-free loan of $1000 dollars, and you are able to use that loan to invest in a business which then makes you money. A year later, you return to me $1000, but you've still been able to create an "increase" out of the loan that I gave you, an increase that you wouldn't have been able to enjoy if I hadn't loaned you the $1000 to begin with. So the increase that you make on account of me loaning you $1000 is a kind of gift from me to you. Theoretically, if I had held on to my $1000 and not given it to you, I could have used the $1000 to invest and thereby enjoyed the increase myself.
Gifts are really cool because they create relationships of community and connection. There's something magical and in harmony with the natural growth and decay of nature in the increase that properly treated gifts can create.
In indigenous cultures which maintained gift economies, it was always considered imperative that the increase generated by a gift be passed on or used up, and never hoarded or used as capital itself. This passing-on or "paying it forward" was thought to be necessary in order to keep the "spirit of the gift" moving. So, for example, if you were able to make $2000 out of the $1000 interest-free loan I had given you, it would be good form for you to spend that $2000 on necessities for you and your family or to throw a big party and share the wealth. It would be very bad form for you to keep that $2000 to invest as capital or to hoard in savings.
The idea behind this is that gifts in a community should be kept in circulation and not used to unduly benefit or to create an unfair advantage for any one individual. When gifts are hoarded or used to create only private benefit, the spirit of the gift dies and the nihilism of separation, meaninglessness and isolation arises. This nihilism of separation creates a general atmosphere of cruelty. It's the atmosphere we're living in now. It's the atmosphere that the Occupy movement has arisen to protest.
The Spirit of the Gift
We can think of the "spirit of the gift" as a sense of gratitude that puts human beings in an attitude of reverence and love for each other, nature, and divinity. When gifts are kept moving and circulating, no one person has giant storehouses of money or goods to use as "security." The "security" and "prosperity" of an individual is instead intimately tied to the security and prosperity of the community, and thus to relationships of good will, love, and interdependency. Furthermore, a person who is living in the spirit of the gift, rather than seeking to extract and hoard the riches of the earth in warehouses instead respectfully fosters and tends for the earth so as to continue to enjoy the bounty of her gifts in a sustainable fashion.
Living in the spirit of the gift is an act of faith. It involves a surrender of control. This surrender entails two spiritual attitudes that are largely unknown to our control-obsessed modern world: 1) A general trust that the community / nature / divinity will continue to provide and 2) A graceful willingness to accept death and suffering in the event that the community / nature / divinity does not provide.
The act of living in the spirit of the gift is something which my favorite poet and all-around-awesome dude, Jesus, pointed to many times, perhaps most memorably in his Sermon on the Mount, when he suggested that everyone live "like the lilies of the field." The lilies of the field, J.C. pointed out, don't do any work or save for rainy days, and yet they're gorgeous and happy. The lilies live in the spirit of the gift, accepting the nourishment of the sun and earth and giving forth radiant beauty. Then they gracefully die when it gets cold and they don't whine about it. They don't control or hoard anything.
The Nihilism of Usury and the Control Freaks of Wall Street
Usury, in essence, is an expression of fear and clinging to material existence. It's a refusal to surrender control. Usury hears about the notion of living like the lilies of the field and says "screw that!"
Usury seeks to maintain control over the increase generated by a gift. It thus kills the spirit of the gift and creates disconnection.
When I give you that $1000 interest-free loan, I'm letting go of my say over that money. I'm letting you "use" it. In turn, in our little gift society, I trust that you will put your "use" of the gift (the increase you accrue from investing it) to benefit all of us. But I'm trusting. I've surrendered control of the "use" of the gift. Through my trust, I'm making space for the spirit of the gift to live and breathe.
When I give you a $1000 dollar loan with 20% interest, I'm not letting go of my say over that money. I'm not trusting that you will use the increase of the gift to ultimately benefit our community and thus me. I'm demanding that you put the increase that you generate through your "use" of the gift back in my pocket. Thus I am controlling the "use-stuff" or "use-ury" or of the gift. In my control, I don't trust you and I certainly don't love you.
Usury Equals Commerce Between Foreigners
Lewis Hyde explains:
- To ask for interest on loaned wealth is to reckon, articulate, and charge its increase. The idea of usury therefore appears when spiritual, moral, and economic life begins to be separated from one another, probably at the time when foreign trade, exchange with strangers, begins. As we saw in an earlier chapter, wherever property circulates as a gift, the increase that accompanies that circulation is simultaneously material, social, and spiritual; where wealth moves as a gift, any increase in material wealth is automatically accompanied by the increased conviviality of the group and the strengthening of the hau, the spirit of the gift. But when foreign trade begins, the tendency is to differentiate the material increase from the social and spiritual increase, and a commercial language appears to articulate the difference. When exchange no longer connects one person to another, when the spirit of the gift is absent, then increase does not appear between gift partners, usury appears between debtors and creditors. (144-145 The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World)
The key point that Hyde makes here is that usury begins when foreign trade begins. It's an economic relationship forged between groups of people who have no necessary bonds to each other communally or spiritually and who do not trust each other. It's a relationship of outsider to outsider.
Think about this: usury now colors every exchange in our financial institutions. The banks lend to us, the people, at interest-- and in the case of the sub-prime mortgage crisis at insanely high, loan-sharking interest. They might call themselves things like "Bank of America" but to them, we, their debtors, are obviously foreigners.
The Occupy Movement as a Gift Society
Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the movement against the banks, against our financial institutions and corrupt government and corporations calls itself an "Occupation" and takes the form of physical encampments.
We are occupying Wall Street and occupying symbolic squares and parks in our hometowns because the banks have made themselves foreigners to us through their usury. We have no fellow-feeling and good-will for them because we have no trace of a gift relationship with them.They've destroyed the spirit of the gift through their rapacious lust to control and their absolute unwillingness to trust.
They've treated us, the people, their fellow citizens, like strangers.
To speak in biblical terms, our financial institutions have committed grave sins and the consequences of those sins are alienation and disunity.
It is absolutely no accident that the Occupy encampments in NYC and throughout the world are operating as communal gift economies with free healthcare (in the form of medic tents), free education (in the form of teach-ins, speakers, and lending libraries), free food, free shelter (in the form of donated tents, clothing, sleeping bags, etc.), and free entertainment (as people share their musical and artistic skills).
The Occupy encampments are modeling the living power of the spirit of the gift which the banks, corporations, and corrupt government of the United States had sought to destroy through usury, among other means.
Debts create suspicion, scarcity, distrust and death. Gifts create love, abundance, trust and life." (http://www.shareable.net/blog/the-poetics-of-occupation-on-gift-logic-0)
Historical overview – the meaning of “usury” and the reinvention of “interest”
ROUGH TIMELINE FOR THIS SECTION:
10,000-8,800 BCE – Neolithic (farming, animal husbandry) cultures appear in Asia Minor/Middle East
5,000 BCE – cattle are used as first “capital” – grain, seeds, olives, nuts, etc. also lent at “interest”
4,100-3,600 BCE – copper mining cultures develop around towns, metals become available for trade
3,100 BCE – Sumerian cuneiform script develops – first standardized writing
3,000 BCE – onset of Bronze Age (metallurgy develops) – metals are being lent at “interest”
2,800 BCE – deeds of sale show private land ownership in Sumer; credit law begins evolving
2,600 BCE – common usury rates of 33.33% for grain, 20% for silver evolve – last for 2000 years
1,800 BCE – Code of Hammurabi codifies usury rates, limits debt slavery, requires formalized loans
650 BCE – specialized banking business emerges (taking deposits, changing money for profit)
600 BCE – maximum Babylon interest rate for grain (33.33%) is lowered to equal rate for silver (20%)
600 BCE – laws of Solon in Greece – debt relief, debt slavery outlawed, Athens’ usury laws eliminated
539 BCE – Persians conquer Babylonia; interest rate up to 40%, economic progress shifts to Greece
520 BCE – usury (any lending at interest) is condemned in Buddhist Jatakas and Hindu Sutra texts
508 BCE – democracy established in Athens; Attican economy ascends, Athenian silver coin spreads
500 BCE – lowest Greek interest rates are for real estate loans, loans to cities
400 BCE – investment in productive capital becomes common, as does private banking, asset leverage
400-200 BCE – lowest interest rates are now for “normal” small business loans to good credit risks
400-200 BCE – cities normally have poor credit; borrowing done via wealthy citizens’ credit
300-150 BCE – low-risk interest rates drop below 10% (influx of gold, silver increases money supply)
197 BCE – Rome begins dominating Mediterranean; trade shifts away from Attican region
197 BCE – 100 CE – Roman usury law prohibits interest over 8.33% per year (dating to 450 BCE)
100 BCE – Rome has become financial center of world; foreign traders run much of its banking
100 BCE-100 CE – Roman interest rates vary; during peacetime, low interest (4-6%) on safest loans
88 BCE – Sulla sets maximum Roman interest rate at 12%; lasts for over 400 years
0-300 CE – prosperity of Alexandria includes 12% usury rate, ban on loan interest exceeding principal
100 CE – India’s Laws of Manu tolerate interest within legal limits; “usury” refers to excessive interest
550-850 CE – Justinian Code reduces usury limit to a 4-8% range (bankers could charge highest rate)
700-1200 – Islamic banking develops; collection of “riba” (interest beyond time value of $) is banned
800 CE – Charlemagne forbids any increments on loans – usury defined as “asking more than is given”
11th century – trade/learning begin to revive in Europe; usury declared a form of robbery by Popes
900-1500 – usurers are periodically excommunicated by Catholic Church
1200-1400 – doctrines to avoid “usury” begin to evolve, e.g., theory of interest as loss expense
1200-1300 – fractional reserve banking develops – banks retain 25-30% of reserves when lending
1200-1300 – exchange banking begins – lasts 500 years as common means of lending
1400-1500 – public pawnshops established in Italy (which also accepted deposits), Belgium
1300-1400 – insurance evolves; owners of property transfer risk to insurer for a fee
1200-1500 – attitudes toward finance evolve, as banking becomes more business-oriented
1517 – Protestant Reformation begins; moneylending at interest is tolerated, if it isn’t excessive
1600-1800 – American colonies follow England, setting maximum rates of interest
1822-1836 – Catholic Church declares that legal interest may be accepted by everyone
1854 – England abandons its fixed legal limits on interest rates
1760-1960 – 6% interest is the traditional rate in the U.S., especially in the East
1900’s – U.S. legislation, court rulings reduce effect of state usury laws, especially in recent years
2006, 2010 – stronger usury laws (15-20% cap) are reintroduced in Japan after moneylending scandals
2000’s – much of Islamic world prohibits usury, with some places allowing for commercial lending