Rolling Jubilee and a Little Snark

I really just want to write about how much I love this idea. For those who are unfamiliar, or have only ever heard of it in connection with monarchs, X-men, and cherries, Jubilee is a biblical concept. Essentially, every seven Sabbatical years (so seven seventh year, or every 49 years), all debts would be forgiven, all slaves freed, and all ownership basically set back to default. There is debate on whether it would be the 49th year or the 50th, whether the first year counts as one or not, etc. Basically, people pick nits when it comes to their money. The point remains the same: every {mumble mumble} years, all debts are forgiven.

Before anyone gets any ideas, this will never happen in any official capacity. Dan Cathy, as dedicated as he is to biblical principles, isn’t going to tell his franchise owners that they no longer owe him a part of their profits. The Catholic Church, with it’s billions and billions of investments, isn’t going to tell everyone to keep the money, it’s Jubilee year.

But, that doesn’t prevent people from doing that themselves.

The thing about debt in the modern era is you can buy somebody else’s debt, usually for pretty cheap. When one group gets tired of attempting to collect or just feels it’s become too risky, they can bundle up a lot of debt and sell it to other people to recoup at least some of their loss, and those other people are now responsible for it.

But what if people bought a bunch of debt, and then forgave it all?

That’s the latest idea out of Occupy Wall Street (remember them?). They did a test and spent $500 to buy $14,000 worth of debt. And then forgave it all, no questions asked. Those people no longer owe a dime. They even have a website encouraging other people to contribute so they can continue to get people out of debt for ridiculously low prices.

I really want to just be supportive of this, but I have to add a little snark at Tim Worstall, who wrote the article at Forbes that I read it on.

The problem is that when Worstall is trying to be helpful, such as pointing out ways that this can be done without running into the tax law problem of forgiven debt being counted as taxable income, he’s spot on. When he tries to do his little conservative (excuse me, neoliberal, which I assume means “conservative, but unwilling to be associated with the religious nuts”) happy dance that OWS is doing something that he would like to see done, he comes off basically as a smug jerk, and I can’t tell whether he was attempting satire (though his early assertion that wages have risen in some appreciable way since the 70s makes me think not).

But the icing on the cake for me is that this one and only decent Occupy idea is a profoundly conservative one, relying as it does on those little platoons. It isn’t Progressive, it’s not liberal (in the modern sense although it certainly is in the classical liberal or libertarian sense) it is conservative. And isn’t that wondrous? That the only time the progressive liberals of Occupy get something right is when they’re not progressive liberals?

So Worstall is making the incredibly insightful point the that first OWS idea that he thinks is good is one that fits in with the kinds of things he considers good ideas. What incredible genius! Why didn’t I think of that? Tim Worstall considers ideas that he thinks are good ideas to be good, and presumably ideas that he thinks are bad ideas to be bad! I’m willing to bet, and don’t hold me to this, that he also thinks his favorite foods taste great and his least favorite foods taste awful, and that this is an indication of his refined palate that he only likes things that taste good.

Anyway, Rolling Jubilee: great idea. Tim Worstall: Clearly an economics genius!

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6 thoughts on “Rolling Jubilee and a Little Snark

  1. I will admit, despite being a Fred Clark fan, when I first saw your title my brain went to X-Men 🙂

    That is an awesome idea, however. I’m gonna donate some money to that.

    • I threw a few bucks at it myself. It really is a great idea, though it makes me wonder why the middle man. I mean, if they’re effectively removing people’s debt for pennies on the dollar by selling it to somebody else, why not just offer to erase the debt by having the debtor pay pennies on the dollar?

      • “I mean, if they’re effectively removing people’s debt for pennies on the dollar by selling it to somebody else, why not just offer to erase the debt by having the debtor pay pennies on the dollar?”

        I explained this in the piece you link to.

        The company cannot do this without triggering the tax liability for the amount owed that has been foregone.

        It has to go through the middleman for it to be possible to classify it as a gift and thus not be liable to taxation.

      • Actually, I had missed that that was the purpose and thought the gift exemption was basically a technicality to avoid the problem from the middleman’s point (i.e. the middle man could classify it as a gift, but the lenders would be unwilling to). That makes it make a whole lot more sense. I appreciate the clarification.

  2. (excuse me, neoliberal, which I assume means “conservative, but unwilling to be associated with the religious nuts”)

    No, it means classical liberal. Friedman, Hayek and all that. In English English that is, not US English….and given that I’m English that’s the description I use.

    “he comes off basically as a smug jerk”

    Excellent, that proves I am at least a competent writer. Able to let my true character show through the words….

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