Families Suffering in Debt Slavery

 Image courtesy of  Steve Snodgrass  (Flickr).

Image courtesy of Steve Snodgrass (Flickr).

This article appeared in the May issue of Montana Parent Magazine.

Slavery is a powerful word that invokes thoughts of a much darker time in world history.  While certain forms of human trafficking and ownership exist in our modern world, these practices are not accepted and usually take place underground and in the shadows.  Unfortunately, there is a modern form of slavery that pervades our society and shackles millions of American families.

Ancient Greece and Rome were two ancient civilizations that formed the foundations for much of modern western culture.  When it came to debt forgiveness, the ancient Greek and Roman laws were harsh, archaic and brutal.  In these ancient societies, not paying your debts was wrong and you paid with your life, literally.  You or your family become the property of your creditor and you were forced into a life of servitude, sometimes for an extended period of years.  Unfortunately, debt slavery still exists today.

 Here, in the United States you will never become the “property” of Bank of America, Wells Fargo or HSBC for failure to pay back debt.  However, constantly struggling to meet minimum payments to avoid collections is a form of slavery.  Working overtime, suffering physical and emotional stress and sacrificing the well being of yourself and your family to pay back debt is certainly a form of bondage that is sometimes impossible to escape.

 THE MORALITY OF PAY AT ALL COSTS

Many people believe in paying their debts at all costs regardless of the consequences.  Where did this idea come from?  When did sacrificing the health, happiness and mental stability of yourself and your family to ensure that banks receive their minimum payments become a noble pursuit?  I argue that this is completely ignoble and irresponsible.  As a parent, your most important financial obligation is to yourself and your family.  

Remember, banks are in the business of lending money to make money, not out of sympathy or a desire to help.  This is perfectly fine, but we must remember that banks have no moral obligation to lend money and on the flip, people have no moral obligation to pay back borrowed money.  When you do not pay back your debt, you have breached a contractual obligation, not a moral one.  

Like many, I believe that living up to your end of the bargain under a contractual obligation is important.  Private contracts are the fuel for the motor that is our economy.  However, hard-working, decent people do face hardships and it is important to remember that a breach of contract is not a sin and striving for a fresh financial start is not wrong. 

 THE SCALES OF JUSTICE

Many suffer through debt slavery in silence and sit idly while their lives deteriorate.  Often children are the unforeseen victims of this silent struggle.  As parents, we have the responsibility of supporting our little ones to the best of our ability in every way possible.  This requires us to understand that we have no moral obligation to send creditors our hard earned money every month if that means sacrificing the health and happiness of our families.  

 For millenia, laws have been in place that obligate creditors to forgive debt in certain instances.  References to debt forgiveness laws can be found in the Bible and the Quran.  References to bankruptcy can be found in ancient East Asian texts as well as documents from ancient Babylon.  Our founding fathers thought this concept so important, they decided to include it in our supreme governing document, the Constitution of the United States.

Regardless of your denomination, citizenship or beliefs, these authoritative historical texts and records provide strong evidence that debt forgiveness and bankruptcy are not wrong, but often morally right.  

If you are struggling financially, working long hours simply to turn over money to your creditors, suffering from anxiety and emotional stress related to your financial issues and if your children are experiencing the backlash from this, it is time to break the chains of debt slavery.  

Change your perspective, adjust your moral compass and make the right decision for yourself, your family and your financial future.