With the creation of methods to calculate interest and record transactions, along came debt.
Debt was a powerful motivator in early times. It was used to make people work harder and be more efficient. Crop yields of farmers in debt were significantly higher than those without debt. If farmers could not pay back their loans, they would lose their farm through foreclosure or be forced to sell themselves into slavery. That kind of consequence would really get you moving, wouldn’t it?
While this system of lending may have been great for the people of Uruk and the rest of the Mesopotamian economy, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that it made life miserable for the working man and woman. Even at the dawn of the first recorded writings, people of the region were lamenting their financial situations:
A mill (for him) (is) the edge of the oven;
His ripped garment will not be mended;
What he has lost will not be sought for!
The poor man — by (his) debts is he brought low!
What is snatched out of his mouth must repay (his) debts.