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After all, we are no longer useful to creditors if we somehow manage to wipe the slate clean. The point is to prolong our debt service until the bitter end, and even beyond the grave, as is the case for loan co-signers. The sober truth is that debts, especially at compound interest, multiply at a much faster rate than the ability to repay. Original lenders are all too aware of this, which is why they sell on the loans as fast they can. Managing the lifelong burden of debt service is now an existential condition for the majority, but what about its impact on citizenship?

How can a democracy survive when it is on the road to debt serfdom? The history of the struggle for political liberty is closely tied to the growth of credit. As James MacDonald has argued, the democratic institutions of liberal societies were able to survive and flourish because government bonds made it possible to borrow cheaply, especially in times of war.

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Central banks increasingly act to ensure the solvency of banks, and not sovereign governments trying to cope with public deficits. The high and mighty presumption of creditors to be made whole now routinely overrides the responsibility of elected national representatives to carry out the popular will, resulting in failed democracies all over the world. Even Mario Monti, the placid technocrat appointed in as Italian prime minister to dampen popular opposition to financial power, spoke out against what he called the emergence of a creditocracy in Europe. He was referring specifically to how sovereign governance was being circumvented by the priority given to foreign bondholders, as represented through the big German, French, Swiss, and Dutch banks.

The fledgling civic republicanism of a country like the U.

Creditocracy

But creditors have always been given the upper hand. In particular, he considered it a natural right to be freed of the debts of a previous generation, as a salutary curb on the spirit of war and indebtment. The modern theory of the perpetuation of debt has drenched the earth with blood and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating. As for the slavery compromise reached by the delegates in Independence Hall, that baneful outcome was not far removed from the circuits of debt bondage that launched the slave trade in Africa, and from which white property owners and their descendants in several nations would continue to benefit.

The lopsided creditor-debtor relationship, reinforced by bankruptcy laws that still overwhelmingly favor lenders, is one of the more grisly illustrations of the gulf between the creed of political freedom and the reality of American life. The concern that political ideals are imperiled by debt servitude is, of course, much older than the founding of the American republic.

The historical record shows that a society unable to check the power of the creditor class will quickly see the onset of debt bondage; democracies segue into oligarchies, credit becomes a blunt instrument for absorbing more and more economic surplus, and rents are extracted from non-productive assets. Are we heading down this path, once again? So, too, the revival of interest in a debt jubilee or mass debt forgiveness not only in developing countries, but also in the global North, is evocative of macro-solutions hatched in the ancient world by rulers who were so desperate to restore the balance of popular power in their favor that they abolished all existing debts, freed debt slaves, and returned land to original owners.


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This kind of talk is indicative of the extremity of the current debt crisis. All the evidence shows that drastic relief measures are needed, and that a new kind of non-extractive economy, benefiting from what Keynes called the "euthanasia of the rentier , ought to be built. Pursuing that alternative path—to a society guided by the productive use of credit—may be the only way of salvaging democracy. But for establishment economists, even those who question the credo of neoliberalism, there is no crisis, only a debt overhang" that needs to be reduced to manageable levels before the normal pattern of debt-financed growth can reassert itself.

In the final chapter of this book, I show why there is no viable return to that debt-growth formula. After incomes stagnated in the s, respectable growth rates could only be achieved through a series of speculative asset bubbles. Each time the bubble burst, we could see how the formula rested on an insubstantial foundation.

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As far as lasting prosperity goes, it is fair to conclude that much of the growth was fake, producing only phony wealth, and that future efforts to inflate prices will end the same way. But from an ecological perspective, there is little doubt that this pattern is entirely unsustainable.

The Case for Debt Refusal: A Panel Discussion

There now exists a mountain of scientific evidence, beginning with the seminal report, Limits to Growth, which testifies to the calamitous impact of GDP-driven growth on the biosphere. Restoring business as usual, once that pesky overhang disappears, can only be a recipe for eco-collapse. As with any unjust social arrangement, a creditocracy has to be stripped of its legitimacy in the public mind before its actual hold on power is dissolved. How far along this road have we come? Every other day brings a fresh headline about their misconduct and profiteering, as swindle after swindle is uncovered.

The judicial investigations multiply, producing few convictions and only of junior employees , but an ever-longer roster of fines, refunds, and other penalties. Some of the settlements to end the criminal and civil charges are massive. Public trust, the crucial quality that banks have customarily relied on in order to trade, has long been decimated; we have come to regard their ingenious financial products as little more than scams, and we know that the bill for all of their risky conduct will likely end up with us.

Yet the banks retain their cachet as institutions that are just too indispensable to reform, let alone transform into socially beneficial entities, and most importantly, their lobbying firepower ensures that legislators will always look out for their interests.

Anyone who questions the mystique and the claims that are made is at risk of being declared incompetent to participate in the discussion. One of the outcomes of this mystique is that too many of us are trapped in the payback mindset. Though we may be more and more aware of. This action might not be possible to undo.

Are you sure you want to continue? Upload Sign In Join. Home Books Politics. Save For Later. Create a List. Summary It seems like pretty much everybody — homeowners, students, those who are ill and without health insurance, and, of course, credit card holders — is up to their neck in debt that can never be repaid. Read on the Scribd mobile app Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere. Book Preview Creditocracy - Andrew Ross.

GRAND THEFT BANKING All of the available evidence, and much of our own experience—whether we serve in high elected office or languish as empty-handed targets of a collection agency—suggests that a full-blown creditocracy is now in place, and it is distinct from earlier forms of monopoly capitalism in which profits from production dominated.

Creditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal

Strike Debt digital meme, July This kind of talk is indicative of the extremity of the current debt crisis. Start your free 30 days. Page 1 of 1. Wage conflict was the great strife of the industrial era, but the struggle over debt is shaping up to be the frontline conflict of the years to come. Not because wage conflict is over it never will be but because debts, for most people, are the wages of the future, to which creditors lay claim far in advance.

Each new surrender of a part of our lives to private debt-financing further consumes the fruit of labor we have not yet performed, in the form of compensation we have not yet earned. That is why, to put it bluntly, many household debts are a thinly disguised form of wage theft. Given the fraud and deceit practiced by bankers, and the likelihood that they will not refrain from such delinquent conduct in the future, should we continue to reward them with full repayment?

The major banks are bigger and more awash in profit than before ; they are much more exposed to dodgy derivatives; and they have amassed colossal debts because they know that if the loans turn sour they will be made whole by taxpayers, once again. The alternative is a failed democracy. Topics Debt relief Opinion. US economy comment. Reuse this content.


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