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03/31/2005 Archived Entry: "Wendy McElroy on war and personal (financial) survival"

IF YOU READ NOTHING ELSE TODAY, please read Wendy McElroy's "Reflections on the World."

This entry from McBlog begins with an explanation of why Wendy hasn't been following or reporting upon the "convoluted and ever-changing tho' ever-the-same Occupation of Iraq." For that alone I was going to link to it. Wendy's reasons are my own. At times I've felt that I "should" be covering such a heinous Act of Government. But ... I can't.

Then I read further into Wendy's essay and discovered it was about much more. It's about some personal attitude adjustment and life-changing in a world gone mad with debt (of which government debt in pursuit of empire building is just one part).

Gary North's latest piece on LewRockwell.com could have been written as a companion to Wendy's. It takes a more global view, but the underlying warning is the same.

When you're caught in the debt spiral, the prospect of starting the process of getting out seems more daunting than the prospect of scaling Everest in your skivvies. But by the same token (something anti-debt writers don't address often enough) when you're enjoying the bounty of credit cards and other EZ loans ... who the heck wants to get out?

Too well I remember the days, not all that long ago, when I got a double benefit from my credit cards. First, I could

spend without consequence -- free goodies, no waiting! No dreary, dull saving. Second, when the bills came I received the ego-boost of maintaining that vital "good credit rating." There I was, the faithful contractee, the honorable woman of my word, paying my debts faithfully, no matter how challenging debt payment became.

Since many, if not most, freelance writers are financial flakes, I held my reliability as a special point of pride. Holding that "good credit rating" year after year meant that I (predicted from childhood to be a flake and a failure) was an all-American success. And how to get a good credit rating, but to keep all that good, all-American debt cranking!

Today the very idea of caring what some brain-dead credit agency, some usurious credit-card issuer, or some judgmental banker thinks of me makes me laugh. Today, frankly, if I had to I'd walk away from credit-card debt with a chuckle and a jaunty flip of the bird -- "Thanks for the fast cash, guys. Now go eff yourselves." (I would not walk away from honest debt, honorably incurred from an honorable creditor. Ever. But the more I've learned about credit-card issuers over the years, the more they appear to be to be nothing but loan sharks who gladly, routinely deceive and otherwise abuse even the most honest and reliable customers.)

One cannot be truly independent while also being in significant debt. You can't be free if others own large chunks of your future -- which they do, if you've obligated yourself to send $100 to MasterCard or $75 to Visa every month for the next five or 10 years. How much of your time does that money represent? How much of your life are you surrendering in exchange for that cool DVD player, or that designer sweater, or -- horror of horrors -- those groceries and utility services you're desperately buying on credit today?

Sure, use debt for strategic purposes. To finance something that will bring you greater value in the future, perhaps. Or use debt -- very consciously -- to give yourself an occasional self-indulgence or reward.

It's not debt itself that's the problem, but the debt cycle, the debt mentality, and the debt culture. All these lead straight to unfreedom. Getting out was the best thing I ever did with my life. And the journey out of debt wasn't as Everest-like as it seemed when I was at the bottom of the climb.

Less than 10 years ago, I was paying more in monthly bills than I was earning. Live's very different now from up here on the debt-free hill.

Posted by Claire @ 10:00 AM CST

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