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Are we slaves to debt? David Graeber on the history of spending more than we have

Almost forty years ago, on August 15, 1971 President Nixon took America off the gold standard, declaring, “We must protect the position of the American dollar as a pillar of monetary stability around the world” — which meant, among other things, that there were really no longer boundaries on the amount of money that could be printed.

This began what anthropologist and author David Graeber says is the latest pendulum swing away from an economy based on hard currency to one based on virtual money, or credit, which can lead to debt spinning out of control — everyone’s favorite topic this summer.

Graeber’s new book, “Debt: The First 5,000 years,” traces the origins of owing all the way back to Mesopotamia, and explores how debt and morality became intertwined, among other intriguing details.  Need to Know’s Alison Stewart spoke with Graeber to help explain why being consumed by debt is nothing new.

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