Creating people's geographies
“We shall all consider ourselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts, and morally bound to pay them ourselves; and consequently within what may be deemed the period of a generation, or the life (expectancy) of the majority.”
Today, most of us are indebted. Mortgages, student loans, credit cards for individuals, and budget deficits for nations, especially during war-time. Debt has become big business and credit rating agencies and banks wield not inconsiderable power and influence.
In economics, John Maynard Keynes famously advocated deliberate over-spending or pump-priming to stimulate an economy in recession, but deficit spending was intended as a temporary strategy to lift an economy out of recession only, Keynes never supported the carrying of massive debt.
In international relations and the study of international political economy (IPE) in particular, the late Susan Strange identified four basic pillars of power: security, knowledge, production, and finance/credit. In explaining power and how it is constituted, different schools of international relations have emphasised one base over another. Thus, the realists privilege military power and the marxists proffer production-centred explanations.
The importance of credit and finance has been less covered in scholarly analyses in IR but this is changing quickly both at the international and national domestic levels. While credit and access to credit is the lifeblood of the modern economy, as we all know, domestic debt dependency has hit alarming proportions.
Enter Danny Schechcter, director of the internationally award-winning WMD (Weapons of Mass Deception), an expose of the media’s role in the Iraq War. His latest film is In Debt We Trust, an important investigation of what former Reagan advisor Kevin Phillips calls financialization: the “powerful debt-and-credit industrial complex deliberately engineered by excessive debt.” The documentary is based almost exclusively on the US, but is a worthwhile view and has relevance for many of us outside the US.
The film opens with a nice vignette from a Church with the right kind of idea. Bishop Vernie of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia memorably describes the rationale behind his church’s debt relief leg-up programme: “It’s hard to serve the Master, and the MasterCard”.
RT: 74 minutes