I’m going to start tithing to the Rolling Jubilee. For some background, these people are buying debt on secondary markets (the same ones that caused the housing crash a few years ago), but instead of sending them to a debt collector, which is what’s typically done, they simply forgive the debt. This is an awesome idea and an awesome project.
Because the debt they buy is “subprime”, this means two things: first, they can buy it cheaply (they say $1 for $20 of debt), and second, it’s probably not “luxury debt”. Most likely, this debt is from loans used to pay for housing and medical expenses. And from David Graeber’s book Debt: the first 5,000 years, its clear that debt taken under duress leads to Bad Things©. It encourages an attitude of commodification – desperate commodification. A person with debt taken under duress is desperate to transform everything around them into money; often by violence.
For an example from the same book, Hernando Cortés was deep in debt when he first landed in what is now Mexico, and after the Aztec capitol fell, he attempted to extract money from his soldiers, making them pay for all of the equipment they’d used. When they couldn’t pay, he offered them high-interest loans. Bands of heavily-armed, angry, desperate soldiers began roaming around Aztec Mexico, with results that hardly need repeating.
In our society every person is required to be massively in debt in order to have access to basic necessities. In order to avoid being violently thrown out of your house, you pay the bank on time (or pay rent, which is much the same experience). This means you have to have a job. The absolute necessity of having a job puts an uncomfortable kind of power in the hands of employers. And in order to get a job, you need a college degree. For the vast majority of us, getting a college degree means taking more loans.
I don’t know what the solution is, but this one isn’t working.
Since I’m one of those lucky people who was able to go to college on my parents’ dime, I’m going to be doing my part to free people from these kinds of predatory loans. When I start working again, I’ll be taking $100 out of my paycheck every month to free someone from $2,000 of debt.