Read Chapter XXII - The debt habit of Usury A Scriptural‚ Ethical and Economic View , free online book, by Calvin Elliott, on

The debt habit of mind is the disposition or tendency to look to things we have not as necessary to our success: To yearn for other opportunities and other means than those we have in our hands: To feel helpless without them and willing to incur debt to secure them. The independent, self-reliant disposition takes account of its own powers and opportunities and means, and plans with these to accomplish the very most. This old self-reliant, independent spirit, that scorned debt, has largely passed away. To incur debt is now the common habit and has become respectable.

All evil-doers encourage and stimulate the particular fashion or habit or appetite or passion on which they thrive. Usury thrives on debt. If no one was in debt then usurers would be harmless. It is this debt habit that gives them the large field for their operations and secures to them their harvest.

The agreement to pay interest preserves for a time the feeling of independence that would be wounded by receiving a loan as a favor. There is usually a feeling of joy and elation in the borrower that confidence in him is so great, and his credit is so high, that he can be entrusted with a loan.

By incurring a debt there seems to promise the opening up of opportunities that have been denied, and a possible field for the successful exertion of his pent up energies.

The present intended use of the loan, too, seems so attractive and profitable, and the buoyant, hopeful spirit does not doubt that the loan can be easily and promptly repaid.

The temptations to debt do not come to the vicious and idle and worthless, but to the most worthy, industrious, talented, reliable and enterprising, those who will be the most productive in their fields of effort. Its very approach is flattering and therefore so hard to resist.

A bright, intelligent, noble young man with high aims and worthy purposes yearns for an education, but the opportunities seem to be denied him; but there is a fund at low interest at his service.

A lively, energetic young man, with industrious and economical habits, is anxious to engage in business; his youth, character and energy bring the loan to his feet.

The young man with pure yearning for domestic life and a home, with a reputation that is above reproach and of commendable energy and thrift, has a home pressed upon him, to be paid for in long-time payments. He can fill it with furniture “on the installment plan.” With intellectual taste, he can fill his library with just the books he desires “on the installment plan.” Is he musical in his taste, he can fill his parlor with musical instruments “on the installment plan.” His needs and tastes can all be gratified at once by incurring debt. To avoid debt there must be a determined and unremitted effort to resist. Few have been able to escape. The aggregate of private indebtedness can not be told.

Few manufacturing plants are free from debt. They are usually carrying all the load their credit enables them to secure. Railroads and other corporations are under bonded debts that tax their trade to the utmost to sustain.

Counties and municipalities have caught the contagious habit. Bonds are issued to build school houses, town halls, viaducts, water-works, and pave streets.

There lies on this table a list of all the cities in this great land, the United States, with their number of inhabitants and their bonded debts. There are but six small cities in the long list without debt. In some the amount is enormous, the city debt in cases running up to one hundred and one hundred and fifty, and two hundred dollars per inhabitant. That is, there is a city debt on each man, woman and child of two hundred dollars. On this amount interest must be paid, twelve dollars per year, one dollar per month for every man, woman and child.

There lies also on the table a report of the financial condition of the nearest great city. It is rendered in a cheerful mood and declares the city’s credit “tip top.” The indebtedness is eight millions, but the assessed valuation of the city is so high that two million more bonds can be issued before the limit of indebtedness is reached as established by the general law. This is regarded as a most favorable showing and the assurance is given that all the contemplated public improvements can be pushed without interruption. There is no thought of stopping until the extreme limit is reached.

This habit extends to the churches and benevolent enterprises. There is scarcely a church that is not paying interest on some debt. Local societies are often greatly hindered in their work. A benevolent agency of one of the largest and richest denominations issued a piteous appeal to their constituents for help, declaring that the interest on their debts amounted to one thousand dollars per week.

The debt habit has seized the nations and the most enlightened. This is so true that debts are, in pleasantry, spoken of as a sign of a nation’s progress. These aggregate billions are rapidly increasing.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer says the debt of England was reduced five hundred millions in twenty years. To the astonishment of all the world, the United States began to pay her debt, eighteen hundred million, in thirty years. But these stand alone among the nations. The national debts do not grow less, but are rapidly increasing. Both the United States and England are now increasing their indebtedness each year.

The world has gone debt mad. It has become a great harvest field, ripe for the usurers.

Debts may at times be unavoidable. They may at times be positively beneficial. There may be times when the system is in such a condition that it is necessary to take arsenic in small doses, but arsenic has no place in the menu of a healthy man. So debts may be necessary to those who have fallen into decay or have been unfortunate, but they should find no place in the normally healthy financial conditions of an individual or incorporation or nation.

Debts make no man the richer. A man is no richer when he has secured a loan, than he was before. Paying debts makes no man poorer. He but relieves himself of the property of another.

Paying a national debt destroys no wealth. If owed at home, it is but a transfer from one hand or pocket to another.

Adjusting the world’s debts, private, corporate, municipal, or national, the world would remain as rich and productive. Not a material thing would perish. No man would suffer the loss of any right or of any property, but it would be the destruction of the device by which the usurers appropriate to themselves the productions of others.

Freed from this debt habit of mind, and the independent, self-reliant disposition replaced, this anomalous condition would disappear; the producer would receive again his full earnings and the great army of parasites, that has grown up, and that feed so richly on the labors of others, would be compelled to turn producers or perish.