Origins of debt

Back in the 50’s, marketers ran into a problem. Everyone had bought everything they could afford. The simple solution then, was to charge it. Why wait? You can have everything you want. Now.

Today, that message has evolved. Debt is marketed as a necessary evil, unavoidable, something you cannot live without. Wealth Debt management.

Marketers continue to push harder for consumers to rack up more debt. In addition, the culture has taught us/programmed us to pay our debts. But what happens when we have a nation of citizens who can’t?

David Graeber has a fascinating book looking into this very subject. In summary, debt dates back further than money. Money wasn’t used to help us barter; instead money was used to feed an army. So, a nation would create a coin that citizens needed to pay as a tax. The taxes were used to feed the army.

The point I’m trying to make is this: Debt has been around for centuries. It’s nothing new. Understanding where it came from may help us understand where we are going. The results of having an entire nation enslaved by debt isn’t pretty, in the past it has led to slavery and much inequality.

The simple rule for borrowing money:

You might consider borrowing money if you are borrowing for things that go up in value. You should never borrow for anything that goes down in value.

An even better rule is:

Stop shopping. Buy less stuff. No restaurants or Starbucks. Eat black beans and rice. Drive a junker. Walk or bike or take the bus or carpool to work. Don’t go to a popular college. Start acting like you have no income. Work really hard. Don’t borrow any money. Live like no one else so later on you can live like no one else.

You could have the marshmallow now. It’s tempting. It’s almost too irresistible. Almost. So resist. Resist!

Debt has never been the key to unlocking one’s happiness.