Forgive Us Our Debts
The project examines personal, corporate, and public debt in the UK within a moral framework. (2019)
Natan Mladin features in The Tablet for ‘Talk Money Week’, to discuss why we need to talk about debt in materialist society. 19/11/2018
This is Talk Money Week, which aims to get more people talking about money in order to improve their financial management. But we also need to talk about debt, the darker face of our materialist society.
The facts are well known. As we are borrowing hand over fist, our debt levels keep rising. Today, personal and household borrowing are at levels unseen since the financial crisis 10 years ago. There is around £240 billion of unsecured debt in the form of credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts – a growth of 9 per cent since 2014. All the while, wages are falling by 0.4 per cent a year, taking inflation into account.
More than 8.3 million people in the United Kingdom face debt problems. Precarious work arrangements, low incomes, mental–health issues and relationship breakdowns are some of the reasons people end up stuck in debt. Young people today are one of the worst groups affected. Clearly, economic and fiscal measures could be taken to address some of these problems. Interest rates, for example, have been kept at very low levels since the financial crisis, the Bank of England base rate sitting at 0.75 per cent today.
There are reasons for this, but one thing is clear – the regime favours borrowing over saving. The third of the British population that has less than £500 put aside for a rainy day bears this out. What behaviour does a low–interest rates policy encourage? What message does it send? There is precious little public conversation on these questions. That has to change.
Image from the Tablet website.
Nathan joined Theos in 2016. He holds an MTh and PhD in Systematic Theology from Queen’s University Belfast. He is the author of several Theos publications, including “Forgive Us Our Debts: lending and borrowing as if relationships matter”, a report on the ethics of debt (with Barbara Ridpath), and the chapter on ‘Václav Havel’ in “The Mighty and the Almighty: How Political Leaders do God” (Biteback, 2017). His current research interests include: religion in London; theology and economics; the ethics of AI/robotics; and theology and contemporary art.
Posted 19 November 2018
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