Old idea

The state maintains health and education so you can have a productive life (and pay taxes).

New idea

Private companies sell us health and education which we take out loans to do (and which guarantees an uninterrupted flow of debt repayment money for the businesses that own these institutions).


Jubilee is the ancient practice of debt forgiveness instituted once every seven years and designed as a reset switch to guard against egregious imbalance (like we have now).

Rolling Jubilee has found a loophole to bring back the ancient practice.  In America, banks sell debt to debt collectors for 5 percent or even less and the collectors hound us (the holders of the debt) to make their profit. (How banks can afford to sell so cheaply tells you something about the profits they are making on the system). Rolling Jubilee acts in the same way that the collectors do: they buy the debt at the reduced rate, using donated money. But instead of calling in the loans they cancel the debt. Since their inception they have raised $400,000 to buy and cancel $15m worth of debt. A Jubilee for our times.

Here is Andreou at the Guardian:

This is why the debate on the back-door privatisation of medical and education services in this country matters so much. The extraction of profit from these two key areas changes the social contract in a fundamental way. The idea is no longer that the state will educate you and keep you healthy, so that you may continue to contribute with both your work and your taxes. It has mutated instead into “you will borrow money from the state’s private partners in order to become educated and stay healthy, so that you may continue to contribute to their bottom line.” All of the 99%, in a very real way, work in part for an assortment of financial institutions, largely invisible and certainly unaccountable.

Iceland’s – strangely unreported – decision to write down mortgage debt for its citizens, undermines that notion. A rejection of traditional systems of credit and money as a response to austerity, such as in the barter markets of Volos in Greece and Turin in Italy undermines that notion. The Rolling Jubilee project undermines that notion in a significant way, by asking the sizzling question: “If a corporation is prepared to accept five cents on the dollar in exchange for our debts, if that is our debt’s open market value, how much do we really owe?”

Occupy Wall Street’s debt buying strikes at the heart of capitalism: In buying debt so cheaply and writing it off, Occupy has revealed the illusory and circular nature of owing money, by Alex Andreou, The Guardian

money is a promise: American jubilee


Here is a story about fierce people.  A king decides to sell a servant and his family into slavery to settle the servant’s debt.  The servant begs the king for leniency to repay the debt, and the king has pity and mercy and not only releases the servant but forgives the debt in full.

The same servant meets a man in the street who owes him money and grabs him by the neck, and demands repayment.  The debtor pleads for leniency, but the servant has the man thrown into prison.  Friends of the servant see this cruelty and relate it to the king, their common benefactor.  The king calls the unforgiving servant to him, chastises him for his hypocrisy and lack of mercy, and throws him into prison.

Unhappy ending, sorry.  You probably remember this story from Matthew’s gospel from childhood when you went to Sunday school.  Or if you’re of another faith, echoes of the universality of the message in stories from your own religious teachings.


The author David Graeber wrote a book called Debt: The First 5000 Years.  I have excerpted three passages from one of his chapters below to introduce the idea of Jubilee, which is state sanctioned debt forgiveness.

Jubilee, called amargi (freedom) by the ancients, was perfectly described in the moment – in Matthew’s gospel – when the king forgives the servant and the servant is made free of his obligation.  What exhilaration must have accompanied this transformative moment in the servant’s life.

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