Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Musings on Debt

CNN-Margaret Atwood

A different way to ponder debt beyond the mere realm of dollars and cents.

In heaven, there are no debts -- all have been paid, one way or another -- but in hell there's nothing but debts, and a great deal of payment is exacted, though you can't ever get all paid up. You have to pay, and pay, and keep on paying. Hell is like an infernal maxed-out credit card that multiplies the charges endlessly.

I was very lucky in some ways in that I stumbled upon some simple truths while growing up. My first job was as a dishwasher at a restaurant. I worked exceedingly hard while I was there and the job involved busing as well as washing. The wage was $3.15 an hour and my first paycheck came to roughly $42.00 after taxes. My first thoughts were of immediately of what I could buy with that hard earned money. All the things I wanted were, of course around $120 dollars and so with that very first paycheck I realized that no matter what you earn, you can always think of a way to spend much more. I consider that a very lucky insight. It taught me then to focus on the expense side of the equation instead of just the income side.

Overtime this has lead to a perspective that pretty much despises debt. There are so many other things I treasure more than what borrowed dollars would buy me. We carry no debt other than a very reasonable mortgage. There have been times I have even wanted that gone and have threatened to carry it out but knowing what I do about governments and fiat currency, I like my inflation hedges.

Still I recently purchased yet another beater motor home. This one is a 1972 something or other Class C on a Dodge platform. I got it for $1200 and cannot wait to begin ripping into and exploring it. The experience is so freeing in that you can't really screw up too bad when the initial cost was so little. The return is infinite. You only have to make it suck less. Any improvement is huge. My wife is tolerant and loving with regard to my strangeness. Some men drink and others gamble. Her husband wants to check propane lines, caulk roof vents and go camping over the weekend in the ugliest thing on the road.

To me, this is heaven. The guy driving the brand new recreational vehicle with multiple slides rolling down the road with a big price tag and a 15 year loan to match is my definition of hell. In an earlier post I sold my earlier motor home, a 1971 Winnebago and purchased a 2002 Ford Escort outright. I love that little car. It isn't just because it is great on gas. It is because despite the flaws it might have, it belongs to me with no worries or concerns of others.

Perhaps this is the problem with our debtor government today. It is like a version of hell and you have the debt forced on you and even the participation forced on you since it does not stay within any preset spending limits. I could let it alone but when it is giving away the future a trillion dollars at a time, you have to get involved. Long ago I decided I would rather us not be an empire no matter the cost to my standard of living here at home. I wonder if some others would be willing to do the same with regard to somehow making the world fair or just when it never has been. In the meantime they argue that someone is greedy and someone else argues that someone is threatening and both spend us into hell.