The More Things Change …

The following was written in the 1930s:

“The general shape of this universal delusion [that is, credit] may be indicated by three of its familiar features.. First, the idea that the panacea for debt is credit.. The burden of Europe’s private debt to this country now is greater than the burden of her war debt; and the war debt, with arrears of interest, is greater than it was the day the peace was signed.. Debt was the economic terror of the world when the war ended. How to pay it was the colossal problem. Yet you will hardly find a nation, state, city, town or region that has not multiplied its debt since the war. The aggregate of this increase is prodigious, and a very high proportion of it represents recourse to credit to avoid payment of debt.

“Second, a social and political doctrine, now widely accepted, beginning with the premise that people are entitled to certain betterments of life. If they cannot immediately afford them.. nevertheless people are entitled to them, and credit must provide them.. Result: Probably one half of all government, national and civic, in the area of western civilization is either bankrupt or in acute distress from having over-borrowed according to this doctrine.. Now as credit fails and the standards of living tend to fall from the planes on which credit for a while sustained them, there is political dismay.. When [people] have been living on credit beyond their means the debt overtakes them. If they tax themselves to pay it, that means going back a little. If they repudiate their debt, that is the end of their credit. In this dilemma the ideal solution, so recommended even to the creditor, is more credit, more debt.

“Third, the argument that prosperity is a product of credit, whereas from the beginning of economic thought it had been supposed that prosperity was from the increase and exchange of wealth, and credit was its product.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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