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Addicted To Debt: To Cure Economy, Credit Junkies Need A New Dose Of Shame

Op-Ed: The worldwide debt crisis means that citizens, governments and the financial world must confront a bitter reality: living on credit has to stop, and dangerous deficits should be forbidden. The transition will be painful. But it’s high time.

(Chris Devers)
(Chris Devers)
Markus Zydra

MUNICH - In the search for a solution to the debt problems in the western industrialized countries, a visit to Nuremberg, Germany, could offer some valuable inspiration. The city boasts a Debtors' Tower, an exact copy of the original rebuilt after World War II. This was the prison where, until the late Middle Ages, men who did not meet their financial obligations were locked up. Doing time in what was called the "Narrenhäuslein", or "little house of fools," was a mark of extreme shame.

Many older people can still remember the day when we only bought the things we had the money to pay for. Living on credit was frowned upon. Of course, people who bought homes took out mortgages and car buyers paid in installments, but the idea was to pay back what was owed as swiftly as possible. Even governments, in the period of reconstruction that followed World War II, strived to keep budgets balanced. Government debt was supposed to be a fallback position in the event of severe recession in the national economy.

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May 21-22

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