Interesting history behind US bankruptcy system.

Many of the Founding Fathers were big debtors (Washington, Jefferson for example). Land rich, capital poor.

In (very) brief, the special US bankruptcy court system arose out of that history, and tended to be "lenient" on debtors (at least in the eyes of creditors!).

Perhaps a lenient bankruptcy process encourages business risk-taking.

Also, practical considerations come to mind: It is true that if people are incarcerated (debtor's prisons) then they cannot earn money to pay back debts.

Morality? True, one should pay back what one has borrowed.

But many times ideological and moral purity runs into reality....

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It’s about time Robin!

But rights are about how we who have a stake in the collection of debts collectively preserve that ability in opposition to those who believe that their interests are in coordination to default on their debts collectively.

Part of how we implement rights is by creating clear lines that justify extra-judicial violence against a violence legitimizing process which is visibly acting against its own accountability. Much of the Bill of Rights is about that.

Another part of how we protect a system of debt is by implementing rights is by coordinating to make sure that sympathetic debtors have more to gain from the preservation of a legible system of credit and default than they do from overthrowing such s system.

This involves the concept of bankruptcy and the concept of grace. The former, an alternative to debt slavery, is the acknowledgment that certain debts are unlikely to be repaid when their collection costs exceed what can in expectation be collected. We regard creditors as responsible for assessing the financial credit-worthiness of their debtors, and demand that they limit their efforts for restitution to financial obligations.

Grace is a more subtle concept regarding a shared obligation to protect the intrinsic incentives to produce forms of value that are not easily measured and monitored. Rather than exclusively preserving a system of debt, and potentially lexically prioritizing fungible and storable forms of value, we make an effort to preserve the sorts of aesthetic response that enables us to determine whether our overall situation is survivable, and to ensure that those personal properties correlated with causing a situation to be survivable, are protected.

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I mentioned efficient breach in my post. Doesn't make contracts irrelevant or incoherent.

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Isn't the whole law and economics perspective a rejection of debt as a normative force? I'm thinking here of the concept of "efficient breach," which might not be a perfect synecdoche admittedly.

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I'm glad you mentioned Graber. His book is very interesting on this topic, even for people who disagree with his political views. Debt started out as a moral thing, and even once it got a precise accounting aspect to it, still retains less formal moral aspects.

I think you'll find debt to still be quite lacking as a moral framework in the end.

An example from David Graber that comes to mind (not sure which book) is people aggressively doing favours for people who don't want favours done for them because then they are indebted.

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