In praise of Rolling Jubilee

Sat, Nov 17, 2012, 00:00

The Occupy movement’s protests against the financial system last year drew a lot of attention, but while the occupiers might have folded their tents, they haven’t gone away.

Indeed, their latest idea shows they are determined to challenge how the financial system operates, rather than just complain about it.

Called Rolling Jubilee and organised by Occupy offshoot Strike Debt, the idea is simple and rather ingenious.

According to its website: “Banks sell debt for pennies on the dollar . . . to debt buyers who then turn around and try to collect the full amount from debtors. The Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt, keeping it out of the hands of collectors and then abolishing it.”

A successful fundraiser in New York on Thursday was the first step in raising funds to pay for this secret and random debt forgiveness – every $25 raised is enough to write off $500 of debt, they say. This is of practical benefit for those lucky enough to have their debt forgiven, obviously, but also has a symbolic importance beyond the amounts in question – highlighting the inequitable and often scandalous debt-generating behaviour of the financial industry.

With so many financial institutions receiving taxpayer-funded bailouts, is it not time that actual people in debt receive similar help with their liabilities? As a statement of values, it is most certainly timely.