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And, yes, I DO take it personally: How about debt cancellation?
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Monday, September 19, 2011

How about debt cancellation?

david graeber speaking in an interview with democracy now...
...when you hear a Republican talk about class warfare, you know they’re waging it.


I think that for the last 30 years we’ve seen a political battle being waged by the super-rich against everyone else, and this is the latest move in the shadow dance, which is completely dysfunctional economically and politically. I mean, it’s the reason why young people have just abandoned any thought of appealing to politicians. We all know what’s going to happen. The tax proposals are a sort of mock populist gesture, which everyone knows will be shot down. What will actually probably happen would be more cuts to social services. The very fact that the rhetoric is about the debt, which is really a non-issue, is itself the problem.


I think President Obama really has bought into the dominant ideology, which is essentially Republican. Finally, he has to wage an election campaign, so he has to make some gestures in the other direction, because he knows the overwhelming majorities of the American public are in favor of taxing the rich. And he also knows that it’s almost certainly going to be shot down. There’s nothing that the Republicans are less likely to put up with than a proposal like this.


In the ancient Middle East, often new kings would simply declare a clean slate and cancel all debts, or all consumer debts, commercial debts, between merchants were often left alone. The Jubilee was a way of institutionalizing that. In the Middle Ages, there were bans on interest taking entirely. There have been many mechanisms.

But whenever you have what I call a period of virtual credit money, when money is recognized not to be a thing like gold and silver, but a social relation or promise that people make to each other, which has become increasingly clear since the '70s, when we went off the gold standard—and I think 2008 really brought that home—debts can be renegotiated. They're not set in stone. Trillions of dollars of debt was made to disappear. We understand now that this is a political arrangement, and it can always be readjusted. And I think what the people coming to the squares—and Wall Street now included—are saying is that, well, if that’s true, if democracy is going to mean anything now, we’re all going to have to be able to weigh in on what sort of promises are made and what sort of promises are adjusted when you enter into a crisis.

now, THERE'S a thought...!

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