Come On People: Debt Is NOT Slavery
The internet is full of hyperbole. “Debt is slavery” is a refrain I hear often on the interwebs. Hell, there’s even a book about how debt is slavery. I’m sure it’s a decent book and all, but give me a freaking break with the title. Google the term “debt is slavery” and you’ll get over 85,000 results (and counting). There are plenty of sites preaching the gospel that yes, debt is slavery and plenty of other sites questioning the validity of this assertion.
So please, let me clear this issue up once and for all…
Debt Is NOT Slavery
Let’s forget for a moment that likening going into debt to buy a nice plasma TV or shiny new BMW to real actual slavery is incredibly offensive to slaves and their descendants. Let’s also forget for a moment that credit cards and rampant materialism can act as a net drain on society: nobody is arguing being in debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing, after all. But debt as slavery? Even for the internet, that’s hyperbolic.
- People enter into debt of their own free will – I suppose it’s possible there were some real slaves out there who volunteered for the job, but I doubt it.
- You can choose to get out of debt without risking bodily harm – Yeah, getting out of debt is hard. But you don’t face physical harm from attempting to do so. Unless it causes some sort of stress-related illness. Or something.
- You can choose to walk away from most debts – Sure, you may lose your home if you don’t pay the mortgage, but nobody can physically detain you for choosing to do so. You aren’t going to go to jail. You won’t even been socially ostracized all that much. Slaves can’t throw off the yolk of oppression quite so easily.
Why Does Any Of This Matter?
Why do I care if some people blabber on about debt being slavery? Because words have power and emotive words such as “debt” and “slavery” doubly so. Equating a morally ambiguous concept, debt, with something morally repugnant, slavery, naturally causes people to associate negative emotions with debt. While debt can certainly be a negative thing, there are many positive uses for it as well.
Engendering fear or hate of debt leads to an unhealthy and unbalanced relationship with money and if there’s anything we need fewer of in this country, it’s people with an unhealthy relationship with money. Take this example: say you have two people, one who is repeatedly told debt is slavery and evil while growing and the other taught that debt can be both a positive or a negative depending on how its used. Which individual do you think is going to have a healthier relationship with money?
Don’t like debt? Great! Don’t borrow any money! But going around equating debt with something as evil as slavery doesn’t do the rest of society any favors. So please, keep your mouth shut.