Some are shouting “We must raise taxes, especially those on the wealthy!”
Others proclaim “We need to spend less, and tax less, that is the only way for us to continue growth!”
But most are meekly stating “Maybe we should look somewhere in the middle for the answer?”
A lot of people you talk to these days will tell you that one of these three solutions is the answer to our continued economic woes. But all three of these have one problem, they operate under the idea that our current failing structure can be repaired when the real issue we are facing cuts not just to the bone, but completely through it.
The world as a whole is a debt based society. Almost every relevant culture today has accepted that taking on debt is the best way to grow faster than everyone else, and the focus is put almost entirely on this idea of economic growth. At some point in history we collectively adopted this idea that growth is what we need to strive for, and we should achieve this by any means possible. Any period of time that does not have growth is considered a “recession” and we are taught early on to fear that word. This means that we must always continue to grow towards infinity, which of course is impossible in a finite world with finite resources. At some point we must decide the we have had enough. The point where we would have been forced to make this decision would have come a long time ago if we hadn’t come up with the ultra-handy invention called debt with interest.
Do you want to go to school? Buy a house or a car? Start a business? Try doing any one of those things without taking on a single penny of debt. I have, and I have failed. Like most people in our modern culture I was duped in to the idea of accepting a debt burden over my head. Granted my failure is not anywhere near as heavy as the failures of many others, but it is still an amount of money that is much, much larger than my income.
You might be wondering, is debt really that bad? Is something that allows me to get a nice shelter and transportation really one of the roots of our problems?
Imagine something for me for just one second. I want you to think of a world in which no one can get even a single dollar of debt. Where you only can buy things that you have the money for right now. Would you spend $20,000 for a new car when you only ha$5,000 saved up? How could you? How could anyone? If only a few can get the money to pay the high price of $20,000 there would be no market for cars of that price, but there would be a great market for cars that cost $5,000. Of course that would mean sacrificing some features that most people think add quality to their purchase. But it turns out that most car companies are just adding more flash such as heated seats, dvd players, and computerized control rather than improving the core functions of the vehicle itself. This is most apparent by the fact that we still use an engine technology that is over 100 years old, and fuel efficiency has hardly improved at all. So this extra money we have created for ouselves through debt has only allowed us to buy toys that are slightly more fancy rather than things that are more useful, but this is an entirely different rabbit hole to get sucked in to.
Under a debt based society we can get that fancy car with the touch screen computer in the dash. We can get that large house that uses electricity in an extravagant, inefficient way. All we have to do is dedicate the next 30 years or so to servicing that debt, and assuming all things work out and no more debt is needed, we can finally own those shiny things.You see, debt lets us seem like we are more wealthy than we actually are, but this is only an illusion. This is an illusion that has been engrained in to every last one of us since we were small children. We saw our parents get that nice house, have two or three cars, and plenty of toys to fill our home with. This is what many call the “American Dream,” but of course a dream can never be reality. It will always be just out of reach and it is not the road to happiness, because happiness itself is the road we should be on. Being happy is not a destination, it is a choice that you either choose or don’t every waking moment of your life.
This debt-ridden road has been long, and the illusion it created is so tangible it is incredibly hard not to fall for. We have spent generations trying to get to the destination this road leads to, but we are discovering slowly that the destination does not exist. Debt has always and will always be a burden, and until we get rid of this burden we can never be free.