Monday, July 26, 2010

Personal Responsibility: Priceless

If you have a college kid, you know that credit cards are marketed aggressively to them. As many of them will refer their debt back to Mom and Dad, who are more or less compliant, they're a better risk than others. And, at 18, they've reached majority both for freedom of contract and privacy. There's no bar, either, to a kid having multiple credit cards. It isn't uncommon for kids to carry thousands of dollars in balances.

This is as reprehensible as all those ads encouraging kids to ask their parents to let them subsist entirely on trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup. It encourages the assumption of debt, at rates of interest once outlawed as usurious, for the acquisition of mostly transient, worthless crap. It trains kids for a glorious future as a mindless consumer, exalting possession over sanity, short-term over long-term, displacement of responsibility rather than assumption of it. And current law doesn't regulate it at all.

Were I king of the world--not bloody likely--I'd restrict those under 21 and unemployed to a single debit card with a $500 limit daily. They can't live with that, there's always that green stuff. Says right on its face: 'legal for all debt, public and private'. The banks would make less money. That'd be a shame, it really would.

Parenthetically, righties demanding lower taxes often assume credit card debts amounting to 20% or more surcharges on their purchases without a second thought, but raise holy hell if somebody suggests a 1% rise in sales taxes so that, say, a dozen teachers wouldn't have to be laid off. They claim that the former is voluntary, the latter imposed by law and therefore tyrannous. They dismiss the notion that credit card debt, which profits banks, and sales tax payments, benefiting pretty much every citizen of the jurisdiction, are distinguishable on other criteria as well. Their rhetoric demands personal responsibility of all but themselves, as if others have complete freedom of action, while simultaneously rejecting any demand made by others that they themselves exercise it. They overstate the moral hazard in the former case, and deny even its existence in the latter.

A strange, limited notion of freedom, methinks. That oneself is important is a given. But their relationships with others revolve more around the virtuous self and the parasitic other, rather than an opportunity to grow and learn from others, and others' lives, imprisons them rather than frees them. And, too, though they so emphasize the self, they'll turn around and caricature the notion of the importance of self-esteem as more lefty delusion.

A foolish consistency may indeed be the hobgoblin of small minds. But there are others...


P. Drāno said...

Thanks for putting this stuff herw, Prof. W.

ProfWombat said...

an honor and a pleasure; back atcha