Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. All Debt is bad and sad and ergo should go away

 

Doc B – like our old long-lost friend Doc Jay, but probably less likely to look at your chart, say “screw it,” rip out your tubes and drive you to Vegas – wrote about a patient thrilled by the promise of college debt elimination. The patient did not have a firm grip on things like “economics” or “reality,” but she’s not alone. 

As long as we’re talking about college debt relief, why not all debt? The New Yorker is here to tell you what it means in terms of PHILOSOPHY and also justice.

In Congress, the freshman representatives known as the Squad have lifted up grassroots demands to cancel student loans, back rent, and mortgage payments. 

But probably not your mortgage payment, because you can pay it. 

Debt relief, Representative Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts, told me, makes sound economic sense, given that working families would put freed-up money “right back into communities, right back into the economy.” Pressley added, “We have to bail out the American people.”

Hold on. Wait a gol-durned minute. You mean if people have relief from mandated financial obligations, they use the money in other ways that stimulates economic activity? It’s trickle-out economics! 

Though it would help struggling households make ends meet, debt relief isn’t just about money. There are also deeper moral questions to consider—and this is where David Graeber’s work is indispensable.

This is where you sigh with satisfaction and settle into the warm bath of moral questions the New Yorker writers permit you to entertain, and you smile to yourself: I have no idea who David Graeber is, but I will soon, and then I will know something indispensable. 

In “Debt,” he sought to challenge his readers to rethink the very notion of owing: Who owes what to whom?

“Stop paying and find out” seems the easy answer to that one

Do all debts need to be repaid?

“Stop paying and find out” seems the easy answer to that one

Can our real obligations ever be quantified?

Dude have you ever looked at your hand? I mean really looked at it

As an anthropologist who had studied gift exchange,

Oh, a financial expert, is what you’re saying. “At E. F. Hutton, we make money the old fashioned way – by anthropological inquiry into the folkways involving gift exchange.”

and an anarchist determined to envision a world beyond capitalism,

Oh, a nutwad. Well, you have to admire his determination; the man sets his clock for 5 AM every day, goes into the study, and spends the fresh hours of the day fiercely envisioning.

“Are you coming down for breakfast?” the wife calls.

“Not yet! I am so close! A few more minutes and I’ll have the post-capitalist world fully envisioned!” Then he frowns and rests his chin on his fists. Okay where was I. No debt, no money, no rent, no banks, no societal heirarchies, no scarcity . . . then what? I’m almost there! I’m so close!

David wanted to help build a world unconstrained by the constant and petty accounting of debits and credits, one where value and worth were not denominated in dollars.

Because no one has any metrics for quantifying anything in life besides dollars, of course. But let’s go with that. We abandon a commonly-accepted medium of exchange to facilitate our daily exchanges of goods and services, and something without any of the characteristics of value and obligation will arise. WHAT IF THERE WAS LIKE, NO MONEY AND WE JUST DID COOL STUFF AND EVERYONE WAS COOL

Debt, he wrote, is “a promise corrupted by both math and violence.” 

Well, if you borrow from Tony the Shark down at the social club, yeah

What other types of promises might we make to one another and strive to honor? And, in order to do that, what promises might we have to renegotiate or refuse?

“You make some interesting points sir but you ordered a ham sandwich and you ate it and here’s the bill. You can pay here, or at the cash register. And we don’t take checks.”

Debt cancellation is an essential component of any sensible response to this worsening disaster, especially one attuned to questions of racial justice.

Racism before: minority communities do not have access to credit, and that’s a problem. Racism today: minority communities have access to credit, and that’s a problem. Solution: upend the Etch-a-Sketch. As always, Year Zero beckons, with its boundless justice and limitless potential. 

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  1. Judge Mental Member

    James Lileks:

    Dude have you ever looked at your hand? I mean really looked at it

     

    Are you having trouble with your joints?

    • #1
    • November 24, 2020, at 10:28 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: “Not yet! I am so close! A few more minutes and I’ll have the post-capitalist world fully envisioned!” Then he frowns and rests his chin on his fists. Okay where was I. No debt, no money, no rent, no banks, no societal heirarchies, no scarcity . . . then what? I’m almost there! I’m so close!

    No electricity … no fuel … hey, it will be just like camping!

    No food … none for anarchist anthropologists, anyway.

    Visualize that, David.

    • #2
    • November 24, 2020, at 10:46 PM PST
    • 25 likes
  3. Randy Webster Member

    So I borrow money from someone to be able to purchase something the enjoyment of which I’d have to put off for years, maybe. So some entity makes it possible for me to enjoy possession immediately (of a house, for instance). As soon as the mortgage documents are signed, this benign transaction becomes evil debt, subject to forgiveness by the taxpayer?

    • #3
    • November 24, 2020, at 10:48 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  4. Arahant Member

    These people’s stupidity gives me a headache. That’s not the way things work. Nothing works the way they think it should. Nothing can work the way they think it should.

    • #4
    • November 25, 2020, at 12:12 AM PST
    • 21 likes
  5. Sisyphus Member
    SisyphusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    They were so generous to provide us the weeks of video from the CHAZ/CHOP utopia with its assaults and thefts and rapes and murders, including minors, to give us a vivid glimpse of their utopian vision. The perimeter “guards” with their AK-47s celebrating Mayor Durkan’s “Summer of Love”. Police need not respond. Very generous, indeed. We got to see one Christian street preacher beaten unconscious in commemoration of George Floyd. 

    I can just feel that Age of Aquarius coming in for a landing. It always works out so well. In time, they would wish they had shut up and made their payments. If they were able to connect their inability to entice lenders to their refusal to honorably settle their debts.

    • #5
    • November 25, 2020, at 1:14 AM PST
    • 16 likes
  6. Kozak Member
    KozakJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: Debt, he wrote, is “a promise corrupted by both math and violence.” 

    So are Taxes.

    How about a world without taxes?

     

    • #6
    • November 25, 2020, at 3:48 AM PST
    • 12 likes
  7. Kozak Member
    KozakJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    In a world without debt, there will be no credit.

    So get used to paying cash for everything.

    • #7
    • November 25, 2020, at 4:00 AM PST
    • 24 likes
  8. cirby Member

    I had a woman try to pull the old “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” line on me the other day.

    She was shocked when I told her that was just a plain old lie.

    It was so ingrained into her world view that she literally couldn’t comprehend the idea that pretty much everyone has gotten richer, just in the last twenty years.

     

    • #8
    • November 25, 2020, at 4:13 AM PST
    • 20 likes
  9. Eddy Ericsson Coolidge

    Do you ever get the feeling that the last line of every one of these proposed bills is the line “and they lived happily ever after”? Like putting that line into law makes it so?

    • #9
    • November 25, 2020, at 4:16 AM PST
    • 24 likes
  10. I Walton Member

    Well, it will all be eroded away in the next few years, some will lose, some will gain and we’ll have already begun again with a little tighter control at the top most of whom will be among those who gained. 

    • #10
    • November 25, 2020, at 4:56 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Kephalithos Member

    James Lileks: Racism before: minority communities do not have access to credit, and that’s a problem. Racism today: minority communities have access to credit, and that’s a problem. Solution: upend the Etch-a-Sketch. As always, Year Zero beckons, with its boundless justice and limitless potential.

    It’s like gentrification.

    The left in 1970: “Whites are fleeing the cities, taking their capital with them. Nooo!!!”

    The left in 2019 (before COVID): “Whites are returning to the cities, flooding them with capital. Nooo!!!”

    • #11
    • November 25, 2020, at 5:13 AM PST
    • 24 likes
  12. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):

    These people’s stupidity gives me a headache. That’s not the way things work. Nothing works the way they think it should. Nothing can work the way they think it should.

    but they are in power or influence those that are and as long as the country has a magic printing press all is possilbe.

    • #12
    • November 25, 2020, at 5:24 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Debt “cancellation.”

    They keep using that word (fourteen times, in the linked New Yorker article, akshully).

    Because also in the article, I find this (emphasis mine):

    Joe Biden shifted his position on the issue of debt forgiveness, proposing to “forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000.” (The government would make monthly payments to itself, in lieu of the borrower.) 

    So, not cancelled, then. Just displaced. Brilliant strategery. And isn’t it special that the government has all that money lying around which will finally be put to good use. Glad none of this has to come of my pocket.

    • #13
    • November 25, 2020, at 5:41 AM PST
    • 17 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  14. Vance Richards Member
    Vance RichardsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: demands to cancel student loans, back rent, and mortgage payments. 

    About 44% of my monthly mortgage payment is for property taxes. Can we forgive taxes too?

    • #14
    • November 25, 2020, at 5:50 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  15. Stad Coolidge

    James Lileks: As long as we’re talking about college debt relief, why not all debt?

    Why not the national debt? Biden and the Dems can cancel it and claim victory . . .

    • #15
    • November 25, 2020, at 5:55 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  16. philo Member

    James Lileks: All Debt is bad and sad and ergo should go away

    Student loans are just the set-up to establish the principle…the next phase will attack the problem of negative debt. 

    • #16
    • November 25, 2020, at 5:58 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kozak (View Comment):

    James Lileks: Debt, he wrote, is “a promise corrupted by both math and violence.”

    So are Taxes.

    How about a world without taxes?

     

    David might not have gotten to that part of the Anarchist Manifesto yet.

    • #17
    • November 25, 2020, at 6:01 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  18. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge

    If all debt should be forgiven, I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t be applied retroactively, even to debts that have already been paid. My wife and I have already paid off our second mortgage, student loans, several car payments, and a lot of credit-card bills. Now I find out that these debts were immoral and therefore illegitimate, so I don’t see why we should be penalized for having paid them off. I demand reparations.

    • #18
    • November 25, 2020, at 6:13 AM PST
    • 21 likes
  19. EHerring Coolidge

    Since the government controls student loans, it will simply write off some of it. But without debt repayment, how will future students get loans? Simple, Biden will ask Congress to appropriate more and Republicans will cave rather than be accused of being against minorities and women getting college degrees.

    • #19
    • November 25, 2020, at 6:17 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  20. Seawriter Contributor

    cirby (View Comment):

    I had a woman try to pull the old “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” line on me the other day.

    She was shocked when I told her that was just a plain old lie.

    It was so ingrained into her world view that she literally couldn’t comprehend the idea that pretty much everyone has gotten richer, just in the last twenty years.

     

    While it is not true in capitalist societies, indeed throughout history the rich do get richer and the poor do get poorer in every socialist nation in the world. And if you think about it, feudalism is a form of socialism.

    • #20
    • November 25, 2020, at 6:24 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  21. Tex929rr Coolidge

    But the author is so well qualified to comment on debt and the economy…

    ”Astra Taylor is a Canadian-American documentary filmmaker, writer, activist and musician.”

    • #21
    • November 25, 2020, at 6:27 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  22. Flicker Coolidge

    I think the US government should just print up enough money to give every man, woman, and child a million dollars, tax free. That’s only $330,000,000,000,000. ($330 trillion dollars.) Then everyone could have pretty much whatever they want.

    And no one would have to work, just follow their bliss. And everyone would have an equal share of everything.

    Except that there’s only so much lobster in the world, and the price would go up. But other than that, everyone would be able to buy an equal share of everything.

    But there are only so many houses, so the price of every house would go up. But other than that everyone would have all they want of everything.

    And there’s only so much cotton and wool in the world, so the price of clothes would go up. But other than that no one would want for anything.

    And I’m sure that the average person wouldn’t blow all their Million in one single year, like most lottery winners. And go into debt and declare bankruptcy.

    But if they did, the government could just print more money to pay off their personal loans and get them back on their feet again. And get everyone back to being rich again.

    And everyone would be so rich they could afford to take a wheelbarrow full of money to the grocery store to buy everything they wanted: you know, bread, pasta, powdered milk and diapers.

    Hey, why doesn’t Venezuela just do this?

    • #22
    • November 25, 2020, at 6:34 AM PST
    • 15 likes
  23. Jon1979 Lincoln

    The corollary to this already occurred about 25 years ago, when the Clinton Administration and their HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo started pushing banks to make home loans to people with questionable credit. Those efforts were not stopped during the Bush 43 years and led to the housing bubble and the housing market collapse, when the relationship between home loans and the ability to actually pay them back was lost by those in charge, and the bill finally came due…

    …of course, for Democrats, it worked out fine, since the bill coming due when it did helped Barack Obama get elected president, in part due to the resentment of people at being stuck with their oppressive mortgages on homes that they should not have been green lighted for in the first place, because they were out of their income range. The Squad’s current idea would feed on that same type of resentment of getting in financially over your head, and (as noted) would result in the same post-2008 situation, where nobody gets credit, unless the government forces lending institutions and others simply to give away cash or goods at a loss, in order for the people pushing those ideas to get the future votes of those now getting something for nothing (which would simply be forced government transfer of wealth. Which in turn never gets into the future problem of who is going to produce the goods or create the economic growth if government is forcing you to give those things away without proper compensation).

    • #23
    • November 25, 2020, at 6:47 AM PST
    • 8 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  24. cdor Member
    cdorJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Please forgive me if the news is really bad, but whatever happened to Doc Jay? I miss him.

    • #24
    • November 25, 2020, at 7:05 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  25. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge

    I’ve been saying for years, that wealth is for suckers. Max debt is a freedom from responsibility. 

    • #25
    • November 25, 2020, at 7:07 AM PST
    • 1 like
  26. Seawriter Contributor

    cdor (View Comment):

    Please forgive me if the news is really bad, but whatever happened to Doc Jay? I miss him.

    Stepped away from social media as I recall.

    • #26
    • November 25, 2020, at 7:09 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  27. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kozak (View Comment):

    In a world without debt, there will be no credit.

    So get used to paying cash with chickens for everything.

     

    • #27
    • November 25, 2020, at 7:39 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  28. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    From the linked article:

    Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer offered a Senate Resolution urging the incoming President to cancel up to fifty thousand dollars in student loans for every borrower using compromise-and-settlement authority. Explaining her rationale, Warren told me, over e-mail, that getting rid of student debt “would give a big, consumer-driven boost to our economy and even help close the Black-white wealth gap.”

    “Trickle-down economics”.

    Reagan: “Let’s lower taxes, then people will have money to spend and the economy will improve”.

    Democrats: “Boo! That’s stupid! You’re evil. That’s exactly the kind of regressive policy you get when you put stupid people in charge”.

    “Student-debt relief”.

    Activists: “Let’s forgive student loans, then people will have money to spend and the economy will improve”.

    Democrats: “Hooray! That’s Genius! How come nobody ever thought of that before? This is exactly the kind of forward thinking policy you get when you put the smart people in charge.”

    • #28
    • November 25, 2020, at 7:49 AM PST
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  29. Hang On Member
    Hang OnJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I want to take out a million-dollar loan from Representative Ayanna Pressley. Where can I get one?

    • #29
    • November 25, 2020, at 7:58 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  30. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western ChauvinistJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    As I read the beginning of James’s post, I was thinking, “this guy Graeber isn’t just economically illiterate, he knows nothing about human nature!” That was before the big reveal that he’s an anthropologist

    You can’t make this stuff up. 

    • #30
    • November 25, 2020, at 8:13 AM PST
    • 12 likes