Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Just finished reading “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” by David Graeber.

It was recommended as a good source of historical context on financial markets particularly with respect to crypto currency and does a great job walking through the growth and evolution of financial systems. (The first half is incredibly dense, but gets easier as you get closer to modern times.)


Would recommend to others if you’re looking for an interesting non-fiction read – definitely applies to any investments in bitcoin, but much of it applies much more broadly to the venture business.

This passage about the explosion of growth in micro-credit finance in South East Asia felt particularly relevant:

Within another decade, the entire project— even in South Asia, where it began— began to appear suspiciously similar to the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis: all sorts of unscrupulous lenders piled in, all sorts of deceptive financial appraisals were passed off to investors, interest accumulated, borrowers tried to collectively refuse payment, lenders began sending in goons to seize what little wealth they had (corrugated tin roofs, for example), and the end result has been an epidemic of suicides by poor farmers caught in traps from which their families could never, possibly, escape.

Just as in the 1945– 1975 cycle, this new one culminated in another crisis of inclusion. It proved no more possible to really turn everyone in the world into micro-corporations, or to “democratize credit” in such a way that every family that wanted to could have a house (and if you think about it, if we have the means to build them, why shouldn’t they? are there families who don’t “deserve” houses?) than it had been to allow all wage laborers to have unions, pensions, and health benefits. Capitalism doesn’t work that way. It is ultimately a system of power and exclusion, and when it reaches the breaking point, the symptoms recur, just as they had in the 1970s: food riots, oil shock, financial crisis, the sudden startled realization that the current course was ecological unsustainable, attendant apocalyptic scenarios of every sort.


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I work for True Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund with offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto. We partner with promising entrepreneurs at the earliest stages in the technology market providing hands-on management support to guide our portfolio companies through the challenges of early growth.