Usury Defined

By Phineas Upham

Usury is a word with a negative connotation today, but has always been highly debatable throughout history. The ethics of money lending present a complex relationship between the wealthy and borrowers. Usury has always been a practice that has been frowned upon when times are low, but exalted when aims and goals are met. Here, we attempt to explore the historic practice of usury to gain better perspective on some of its more controversial aspects.

Usury Explained

Usury literally means “the action or practice of lending money.” Recently, usury has also come to mean the lending of money at exorbitant rates. Yet this was not always the case. Moneylending is a practice that should ideally benefit both parties. The borrower likely has an idea or plan for what to do with the money, and the lender is willing to help so long as he sees a small portion of his investment improve. Usury is as basic to the economy as the practice of home buying.

So why is the practice of usury so unpopular? For one, common people largely view it as money for nothing. It’s not a practice, in their eyes, that demands a ton of work. Therefore, usury is easily viewed as exploitive. Laws also obscure public understanding of money lending, and the process itself can be laborious and difficult to understand.

Usury, while it carries a negative connotation, has the potential to drive the economy. Money lenders are not a cause to rally against, they are the benefactors who help grow civilization.


Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Facebook page.