Payback by Margaret Atwood
Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth
It was once a fairly routine vote. Since 1960, Congress has raised the ceiling 78 times (49 under Republican and 29 under Democratic presidents). I’m talking about the limit on the total amount of U.S. government borrowing—debt.
You need to spend more than what comes in, you borrow. Nations have debts, too. Like individuals, governments have some expenses that are necessary. We have food and shelter, in America it has Social Security and Medicare.
There’s a cost to borrowing money. That interest often takes years to repay. Some economists have called the current American debt crisis “pathetic,” given the high government revenue (context).
You may think of money as an instrument of desire. Some individuals define money as an instrument of the mind. It’s embarrassing to bring up money in certain social settings. Especially around the 1940s, it was taboo to talk about finances.
Most people associate money with emotion—never enough, guilt about spending. Emotion tinges the conversation that is not happening in Congress in favor of a collision course (a potential default). But is debt just about money?
Take a step back and you’ll see that humans invented the idea of debt—good job, us. Despite the positive press ‘barter’ gets, debt was there before it. “Debt exists because we imagine it,” says Margaret Atwood in Payback.
And yet, we let this intangible thing we created run our lives.
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