If you could name one force that rules the world, what would it be? Would it be politicians and governments? Are the people they govern really the ones in control? Maybe it is the group with the biggest guns that calls the shots? While a case could be made for the extraordinary power of any of these groups, the thing that I believe rules the world is debt.
The Destructive Force of Debt
The power of debt is unlike almost any other power ever invented by man. Those that owe money become the slaves. Those who are able to lend money are the masters. While it may be the case that the debtors are not directly working for their debt masters, make no doubt about it, they are working for their debt.
The power of debt lies in its ability to frighten people, and it does a great job of it. While our desire to have more than our neighbor is what drives us toward debt, the debt itself is something that may permanently bind someone to their job. It scares them into not taking any risks and walking the straight and narrow path. Those trapped by the chains of debt must do what they’re told for fear of losing their income – which in turn means not paying their lender, and losing their stuff. What kind of life have we chosen when we choose to pay for things by taking out debt?
The Addiction of Debt
The lenders are all to happy to perpetuate our addiction to consumerism, which feeds our addiction to debt. You see, the debt profiteers never want you to work your way out of debt. They want the cycle to continue. The more that you owe them, the more obedient you have to become. Why? Because if you don’t, they will simply take it all away from you. Is that freedom? Is that the American dream? I think not.
So why do we do this to ourselves? Why are we allowing ourselves to fight a constant battle to keep our heads above water? We do it because we want too much. We overconsume in almost every way. We do it in our personal lives. We do it in our business lives. Is it any wonder that our public officials are all too eager to incur debt on behalf of us in the public sphere?
Will History Repeat Itself?
The financial crisis of 2008-09 should have shown us what happens when we build castles of wealth on the sands of debt. Sooner or later, our financial foundation will be washed away. The Great Recession should have been a warning to us all, both in the private and public sectors. Unfortunately, it seems like we have learned very little from that near disaster. If we continue to live in debt and borrow money the way that we do now, we are going to see the ruin of both our personal finances and the public sector.
Debt as a Means of Control
You see, going into debt means handing over control of your finances – and really your life – to somebody who is all to eager to have that power. Whether that is a friend, a bank, or a foreign country, the relationship changes when you owe something to somebody else. It is no longer a relationship of equals. One now has power over the other. Whether or not they choose to exercise that power is up to them. At that point, you have already ceded control over your situation to your lender.
In the end, going into debt really amounts to voluntarily giving up some of your freedom. To combat this, always pay for things as you go. Use cash. Buy less. Until we learn this lesson, both in our personal lives and as a nation, we risk losing everything that we have. That is a risk that I am no longer willing to take.