Is It Time For A Jubilee? An Ancient Idea Whose Time Has Come

Forgive all debt, forgive all prior transgressions and witness this nation start to heal.

The concept of a jubilee is an ancient one, with its origins in the ancient Egyptian festival of Heb Sed. The ancient Hebrew people held them every 50 years. Christians held Jubilees upon Papal decree. Many nations had kings issue them, as well.

Whatever the culture, the result was the same. All debts would be forgiven, all slaves given freedom, and all prisoners released. It was akin to a grand rebirth for these people, a chance for problems to be forgotten and everyone given a clean slate to start anew.

With the recent move to forgive the debts of college students from Corinthian Colleges, Inc. such as Everest, Heald, and Wyotech, perhaps it is time we consider a larger scope solution. Combined with the push to grant universal pardons for drug offenders, if we expand these ideas, perhaps we can resolve significant wrongs in this country all at once.

It is not as if the granting of a universal pardon is unheard of, as President Andrew Jackson did just that on December 25, 1868, pardoning any who took up arms against the United States in the Civil War, as a measure to help with the healing of the nation. With the damage done to the social fabric of our nation in the wake of the war on drugs, and the rapidly increasing debt caused by privatization of public service, such as education, the nation clearly needs healing.

Here is how it should work, for maximum impact. Non-violent criminal offenders who stole under, let’s say $1 million, would have their sentences commuted. This would release millions of people from prison, and with a pardon, their histories would be effectively wiped clean. All personal debts, from credit cards to payday loans to mortgages and even court judgements up to an arbitrary number, such as $1 million, would be wiped out. All credit records wiped clean, as if every person in America had declared bankruptcy. All criminal records save for the worst, wiped out. The worst offenders would remain where they belong, while average citizens would be relieved.

This solution would also directly undermine the forces at work to erode our democracy. Big money interests, from banks to lobbyists, rely upon keeping people indebted and in jail: short-term profits, even as it ensures long-term failure as the economy grinds to a halt. These money interests then turn that revenue into lobbying, paying for PACs which undermine our democracy. Eliminating these, wiping out those who would destroy our nation as a vampire does its victim, is the best long-term solution, even if it causes short-term hardship for the banking interests. But with their massive bailout a few years ago, it is time they paid back into the system.

By everyone’s slate being wiped clean, if they needed it or not, it would force a reset on a huge number of social ills. Yes, there are people who would be harmed through a reset of credit, but they will recover far faster than the people who would be helped by such a reset if it did not happen. By making it uniform, rather than a merit-based system, it eliminates advantage and disadvantage alike, giving everyone parity and equality, and a ground floor from which they all can build.

As much of the ills in this nation are lop-sided advantage as they are situational disadvantage. By some people being given an advantage due to status of birth, they create a disadvantage to others for limited resources. If this is to truly be a nation which stands for freedom, and equality, the centuries of added advantage, and added disadvantage, needs to be addressed.

The best way to increase long-term, sustainable profits is through a strong workforce — one free of the prison-industrial complex and an overburden of debt. With debt leading to poverty,- and poverty leading to criminal activity, this two-pronged jubilee approach would offer a chance for the nation to actually address the social ills we suffer from. So long as we maintain a broken system, we cannot move forward. So long as we maintain the baggage of a broken system when the system itself is replaced, we cannot move forward.

It is time we etch-a-sketched our system, a fresh start to the issue of poverty, debt, and crime, and a jubilee approach is a real answer.