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1981 Ariz. St. L.J. 61 (1981)
Interest Rates and the Law: A History of Usury

handle is hein.journals/arzjl1981 and id is 79 raw text is: Monetary Control Law
A. Introduction
Few practices have been so universally abhorred as usury. Through the
ages it has been condemned by prophets, priests, philosophers, and poets
of all nations. It has often been regarded as one of the vilest of crimes.
The Hebrew prophet Ezekiel included usury with rape, murder, robbery,
and idolatry in a list of abominable things that would receive the pun-
ishment of God.' Seneca considered it comparable to slow murder., In the
Middle Ages, Christian scholars debated whether usury should be consid-
ered extortion, a form of robbery, or a sin against charity and the Holy
Spirit.8 None doubted that it was an affront to God.4
Even when legal, money lending has generally been thought a disgrace-
ful occupation. The Roman senator Cato reported that it was less disrepu-
table to have your father considered a thief than a usurer.5 Dante, reflect-
ing similar attitudes, consigned usurers to the lowest ledge in the seventh
circle of hell, deeper even than the murderers though still above the blas-
phemers.6 A considerable part of the medieval detestation of Jews proba-
1. Ezekiel 18:10-13 (Revised Standard Version).
2. T. DIVINE, INTEREST 21 (1959).
3. Id. at 27-30; B. NELSON, THE IDEA OF USURY 9-10 (2d ed. 1969).
4. Fortunately, the usurer is easy to recognize:
The usurer . . . is known by his very looks often, by his speeches commonly, by his
actions, ever; he hath a leane cheeke, a meagre body, as if he were fed by the devill's
allowance, his eyes are almost sunke to the backside of his head with admiration of
money, his eares are set to tell the clocke, his whole carcass is a meere anatomy.
Comment, Usury in the Conflict of Laws, The Doctrine of Lex Debitoris, 55 CALIF. L. REv. 123, 127
n.19 (1967) (quoting John Blaxton as quoted in B. MURRAY, HISTORY OF USURY 23 n.I (1866)).
5. T. DIVINE, supra note 2, at 21 (citing CATO, ON AGRICULTURE). Nonetheless, Plutarch says
that Cato invested in loans, probably secretly. Id.
6. DANTE, THE INFERNO 149-54 (J. Ciardi trans. 1954).

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