Indebtedness is a form of servitude, usually involuntary, and, in extreme cases imprisonment. Consider, for example, current rates of interest, usurious compared to what savers earn on their savings in the same banks that charge that interest. Many religious organizations loath interest rates as immoral and criminal. According to all four gospels in the Christian bible, even the normally passive, peaceful prophet of Christianity got so worked up about usury in a temple he started acting like Bobby Knight on the sidelines of a basketball game.
Purchases by consumers (this awful word is used here only because that’s what we have become — involuntarily) drive the world’s industrial economy. And purchases by consumers depend on the confidence of those consumers, so that consumer confidence underlies commercial success. If a potential consumer has no confidence in his ability to purchase an item, then he won’t. If enough potential consumers lose confidence in their abilities to purchase and pay for any particular item, the sales of that item will plummet, causing the manufacturer and sellers of that item to fail.
Considering the current financial situation, which will no doubt crash again within the next year, we can help create a situation that will both change behavior for the better and prevent people from getting into financial trouble. The latter portion is vital to getting wide support, and will be a huge challenge for hopelessly optimistic, reality-challenged members of the industrial economy.
How do we convince people they definitely cannot afford to take out loans to buy things? More impact will be realized by targeting luxuries such as houses, cars, and appliances than small “goods.” The Obama administration recognizes this, and has therefore rewarded people for purchasing houses, cars, and — most recently – appliances, by giving them huge financial incentives (i.e., taxes on other Americans who might not even be tempted to play the “consumer” game).
Loans are required for most people to purchase these “durable goods” (which are no longer durable or good). Loans traditionally are seen as safety nets, but it has become clear they really represent traps. Never mind the psychological or ecological implications of consumerism — there exists no evidence suggests anybody has minded so far — the focus here is on the trap into which each potential consumer falls by taking out a loan to mindlessly invest in transient baubles. Every loan is a bad deal for the borrower, although credit cards represent the largest trap (even with the new rules).
The system needs you to keep borrowing. If you stop borrowing, then who knows what could happen.
The risk levels described below are approximate and will vary according to your personal situation and the jurisdiction in which you operate. Seek legal advice if you are uncertain.
Don’t take out a loan for anything. If you need it — and probably you don’t — save your money and buy it, or barter for it.
Encourage others to join you. Start by sharing your car, your garden, your yard, and your lawnmower. Pass stuff on. Give it away. You don’t need that loan, and neither do the people you care about. Caveat: Sharing leads to liability.
If you already have loans, and most recent students do, then seek deferral under economic hardship. Odds are pretty high you’re actually experiencing economic hardship, so this is no big deal. And even if you’re not, there’s no sense feeding the beast if the beast defaults down the road. Caveat: If you lie about economic hardship, your claim about hardship is legally fraudulent.
Start a “misinformation” campaign (from the point of view of the loan companies).
1) Via snail mail, send out false press releases from loan companies and banks to media outlets such as local radio stations, local press and even the nationals if you are brave enough. These press releases should discourage people from taking out loans because, after all, people don’t really need all the toys they buy on credit. If you make the “press releases” as complete as possible, and word them so that responses are not required, then there is a good chance they will be run without questions being asked.
2) Do a bit of subvertising, on the internet or (for a little higher risk) on billboards: focus on loans companies and banks changing the messages to emphasise the theft aspect of loans. Alternatively, just remove loan adverts entirely. For more information on techniques, read this post.
Other potential actions along these same lines include:
Obvious satirical routines can be developed for a variety of venues. This strategy should hold particular appeal to artists.
Walk away from your mortgages, as suggested by Dave Pollard: Many Americans are now living in homes with mortgages that are greater than the value of their property. Why would anyone continue to pay a debt that is higher than the asset it secures? After all, big corporations view pulling the plug on unsuccessful ventures and sticking the debtholders and shareholders a key business strategy. The whole idea of “risk capital” is that the interest and other fees you earn for lending to risky borrowers compensates you for the risk, so that if the borrower defaults you accept the loss and chalk it up to experience. Yet for some reason homeowners feel some moral obligation to throw good money endlessly after bad. This of course is exactly what the corporatists, who have no such moral compunction, are counting on, what economists call moral asymmetry. The logical response would be to tell the lender to write off the excess of the mortgage beyond the property value, and refinance the mortgage accordingly. Apparently in some US states (called “recourse” states) this moral asymmetry is institutionalized — that is, lenders can go after a mortgagee’s personal assets if they default. There is, of course, no recourse when the corporatists walk away from debts, offshore their operations, and stiff the taxpayers whose subsidies and bailouts paid for the corporatists’ ventures.
Where is the sense of outrage here? Have the education system and media so dumbed down the citizens that they can’t see this scheme for the cruel and criminal con it is? If everyone with a mortgage greater than the value of their home either walked away from it, or was legally empowered to require the excess to be written off as the “bad debt” it is, then of course there would be many bank failures and plunging profits. That’s how the market system is supposed to work. The lenders, of course, want it both ways, and Obama and the
citizens consumers seem blithely willing to let them have it.
Walking away from your mortgage entails medium risk because it will damage your credit rating. Obviously, this doesn’t matter in the long term, but it still causes concern for many people. Additional risks vary among states, up to and including loss of assets for every person named on the mortgage.
Via electronic communications, send out false press releases from loan companies to media outlets. These press releases would discourage people from taking out loans because, after all, citizens don’t really need all the toys they buy on credit. This scheme requires technical expertise: The instigator will hide behind an alter-ego and fake domain.
Taking a step beyond abandoning your underwater mortgage, don’t pay off your mortgage even if you’re not underwater. Simply default but continue to occupy your house. Ditto for other loans (but kiss your car goodbye when the repo man does his job). In many cases, lenders can ill afford to tell their stockholders about toxic loans, so — if you avoid undue attention and your loan is too small to “bother” with — the borrower gets the loan for no payments while the lender gets stuck. This point was viewed as radical as little as a year ago, but the idea has been receiving plenty of attention from the media, and even CNBC is on board.
These actions are high risk because they could bring criminal proceedings related to fraud. Probably they won’t. But stranger things have happened, so we issue the following disclaimer:
Recognizing that even civil disobedience is illegal, the authors and the host of this web site do not condone any actions that break the law under the jurisdiction where the described activity is taking place.
Which, of course, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them at your own risk.
What we’re trying to do here is help bring down a house of cards: People feeling forced to pay debts far greater than the real value of the assets that secure them. People seduced into getting into debt needlessly. People paying usurious interest rates and fees because the banks own the politicians. It’s a debtors’ prison without locks and doors, and it’s immoral. Please help us bring an end to it.