A new initiative is re-energising the Occupy movement. Called the Rolling Jubilee, it is a plan to use money from donations to buy distressed consumer debt from lenders at a marked down price, just as debt collection agencies normally would. But instead of hounding debtors for payments, it will simply cancel the debts. The hope is that the liberated debtors will themselves contribute to the fund, "rolling" the jubilee forward. (...)
But despite its non-threatening appearance, the Rolling Jubilee has significant transformative potential. Two pillars uphold the present debt regime: the moral legitimacy of debt in society's eyes, ie, the idea that a person "should" pay back what he owes; and the coercive mechanisms that enforce repayment, such as harassment, seizure of assets, garnishment of wages, denial of employment or housing, and even imprisonment. The Rolling Jubilee erodes both. It destigmatises debt by saying, "we're all in this together, we believe your situation is unfair, not shameful, so we're going to help you out". And it lessens the severity of the consequences of default. If defaulting means you might get bailed out, why keep paying?
For this reason, we might expect lenders to balk at co-operating with the Rolling Jubilee, perhaps by refusing to sell loans to anyone who doesn't agree to seek collection. So here is a third reason why the idea is so brilliant: if the lenders block debt cancellation even when it comes at no cost to themselves (as they would have sold it at the same price to a collection agency), they appear as a bunch of greedy, vindictive Scrooges. Given their current vulnerability, banks might not want to incite hostility by preventing people from helping each other out.
Accordingly, it is important that the Jubilee organisers continue to frame it in precisely that way: people helping each other out of hardship. Yes, they might understand that its political significance runs deeper, but if they portray it as a political ploy then it will be met as such by the banks or other authorities. Public opinion might also not be as sympathetic.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 16:24