We are living in the cruel grip of a creditocracy—where the finance industry commandeers our elected governments and where the citizenry have to take out loans to meet their basic needs. The implications of mass indebtedness for any democracy are profound, and the historical record shows that whenever a creditor class becomes as powerful as Wall Street and the City of London, the result has been debt bondage. Following in the ancient tradition of the jubilee, activists have had some success in repudiating the debts of developing countries. The time is ripe for a debtors movement to use the same kinds of moral and legal arguments to bring relief to household debtors in the North, and to create an alternative economy, independent of the debt-money system.

Andrew Ross teaches at New York University, and is an activist with Strike Debt, the Rolling Jubilee, and the Occupy Student Debt Campaign. He is the author of, most recently, Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City, and Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times.

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