Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Morality of Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy, as I have noted before, has become a fact of life for many people in Britain over the past few years. Once it was just the realm of businesses, but now thousands of people each year are going personally bankrupt. This is not surprising in a country where food, fuel and accommodation are already among the most expensive in Europe and where salaries rise very slowly and 80% of the population earns below the average salary. The UK is a country where the companies which control the basics of living such as water, sewage, gas and electricity are making millions of pounds of profit whilst people are shoved into fuel and water poverty. Repossessions of houses have risen 48% in the past year and are set to increase meaning that more people are thrown on to the very diminished public housing sector and into private rented accommodation where landlords/ladies can abuse them and increasingly where rented properties are also being repossessed by banks leaving tenants homeless without even notification of the process going on until they are evicted, even if they have been paying their rent religiously throughout.

For our young people, we have got to a situation where you cannot get a job or at least a decent job at all without a degree. However, studying at a university is will put you into at least £20,000 (€32,000; US$40,000) in debt. It is clear why this is wanted, it effectually makes graduates indentured and dissuades them from doing anything risky or radical and certainly not protesting against the state. However, it does saddle them with debt from the start of their working lives (assuming they can get a job with unemployment rising sharply) and is effectively meaning that 5-15 years from now even fewer people will be able to afford to buy a house than at present and yet no-one is making provision to increase either the social housing or the private rental market. It can be seen as a big boost to those rentiers currently snapping up houses and flats put on the market by people who had a 'buy-to-let' property which they cannot keep up. It will put many more people into the hands of the unscrupulous (and you show me a decent landlord/lady, I have yet to meet one, they are greedy and mean and have no consideration at all for the tenants who provide their income treating them all as if they are criminals and seeking to screw every last penny from them) landlords/ladies. They will have increased demand in the next decade that they can exploit to keep rents (that have no control on them in the UK) high and the quality of what they provide very low.

You have to earn over £15,000 in order to start paying back a student loan and most graduates (and I spoke to a man who researches this) earn only £17,000 per year (about £7000 less than the national average salary). Of course the debt does not go away until either they reach 65 or are so disabled that they can no longer work. Even if they go abroad it hangs over them. I can see the rise of UK student loan exiles in France, Spain and the USA rising. Of course taking a degree should be seen as an investment in your future, but of course it is not, because now everyone has them. It is like having to pay £20,000 to buy a school-leaving certificate. Rather for UK people it is a beginning of the process of British society draining as much money from them as possible with giving minimum back. We are the donors to keep the wealthy very rich. There is no sense that you can ever be without debt in the UK. You are hooked up to the blood-draining device at the age of 16 and are never let free because if you were then some rich people might actually have to work for their income rather than suck it from you. I can see where the writers of 'The Matrix' got their idea for humanity being a resource drained by parasitic controllers!

Currently there is one escape from all these pressures on people: bankruptcy. Though student loans are exempt from bankruptcy. Now, I have noted a trend to try and plug this gap. Of course bankruptcy is not the easy solution. It means that for six years you will find it very difficult to get credit for a mortgage, a car or anything and in the UK that effectively bars you from purchasing so many things. Bankruptcy also bars you from entering professions such as the law or accountancy, as if most of us had a chance of getting into either of those, though they are popular with graduates, so for them this is an issue. Also many of your possessions will be taken, that new computer and that ipod and the DVD player will no longer be yours. You can have old furniture and an old car (well I am in a fine position, my car is now 11 years old and rusting and my furniture was second hand when I got it 6 years ago and is coming apart, I can afford nothing newer). Make sure no-one dies and leaves you an inheritance while you are bankrupt because that too will be taken. Avoid winning the lottery too, unless it is such a big win that it can wipe out your debts. So bankruptcy is a way out but it is not an easy way or a decision that is taken lightly.

Now, to stop people using bankruptcy to escape the indenturement that society wants to shackle them with, I have noticed that people have started talking about how 'immoral' bankruptcy is. I heard this first from the Inland Revenue's sickly-named Time-To-Pay Helpline. If you ever want to be told how foolish you are and how you are trying to cheat the state and are a despicable you are and do not happen to have an irascible elderly relative handy then call these people up. They portray you as a tax cheat if you dare even mention bankruptcy. I noticed even the Money section of 'The Guardian' talks of the questionable 'morality' of bankruptcy. Putting this moral censure on people is utterly perverse. Who questions the morality of utility company and petrol company bosses awarding themselves million pound bonuses as they squeeze ordinary people into poverty? Who questions the morality of landlords/ladies who charge high rents and then provide no service to their tenants and then come after them for fictitious charges?

In the UK it is clear that the perspective on morality has become totally twisted. What is clearly moral now in the view of the civil service and the media is to exploit ordinary people to the fullest extent that you can. It is no longer a question of 'I'm Alright Jack', what we are being told to adopt is 'I'm Alright Jack, but I must get more money from you and you are going to suffer as a consequence'. Any attempt to escape from such rapacious behaviour is being condemned. In the UK society insists that you make yourself amenable to being exploited and to not having a stable let alone comfortable life. If you dare challenge your exploitation then you are the ones portrayed as immoral. This is sick. This is a sick society, stay away from it if you have any sense.

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