The idea of alleviating the stress of debt on the common man for the betterment of society is a common goal of many democratic politicians in modern society. Those such as the democratic front runners of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have even made this concept a centerpiece of their successful campaigns. However, this grand idea is not as new and revolutionizing as it seems. Back in the 594 BC, Solon was nominated to be the ruler of Athens and was the first person in history to take on this massive feat. The collection of ideas among Solon, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren carry multiple similarities in their efforts to relieve stress upon the lives of the common man, but the unforeseen effects of such actions can take a drastic turn.
Starting with Solon as the ruler of Athens in 594 BC, his groundbreaking policy was known as “seisachleia”. This policy nullified all debts, outlawed debt slavery, opened the courts and jury duty to the common man, and made public offices by “lot” rather than inheritance. To the poor, the policy was that of a dream. The common man was freed from his intensive labor and dismay to allow for the betterment of his life and the lives of those around him. Solon decided to make these actions in an effort to repair and Athens that was recently in complete dismay. There was an overall lack of order and the rich aristocracy was imbuing its cruel economic power over the poor. Although these reforms made immense opportunities for the poor, the wealthy aristocrats still revolted against Solon’s ruling and refused to give out any more loans to the poor. This then decreased most opportunities for the poor to regain their wealth and grow into a meaningful member of society leaving an overall discontent in society with Solon’s seisachleia.
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, aim to do a modern version of Solon’s action with their plans to eliminate student debt in the United States. Elizabeth Warren’s plan involves taking into account the household’s annual income to determine how much student debt will be erased while Bernie Sanders simply plans to eliminate all student debt as a whole. These ideas of the major democratic politicians carry many similarities to that of Solon and unfortunately may see the same aftermath should the plans be put into action. Student debt represents the debt of the slaves, metics, and poor of Athens as they took out loans from the wealthy with the goal of bettering their standing in society and future earnings. With the elimination of this debt in today’s society, trillions in dollars of owed money would be erased and similar to what happened in Athens, the wealthy will be enraged. The complete or major elimination of student debt have the potential to, “raise the GDP by almost $1.1 trillion over the next decade, create up to 1.5 million new jobs per year and lower the unemployment rate up to 0.36 percentage points over a decade,” as stated by Max Fay in his article for Debt.org. However, this comes at the cost of the United States government losing billions of dollars since the majority of the debt is owed directly to them. Sanders attempts to make up for this deficit with the idea to impose an increased tax on Wall Street, but this will only cause unforeseen effects on the global market which could, in turn, affect the country as a whole.
All in all, whether it be Solon in Athens or 594 BC or Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in 2020 the idea to completely eliminate a major source of debt is simply too radical. I propose a more systematic approach of eliminating student debt with the lowering of tuition at public institutions and the elimination of student debt for those attending college from the established poverty classification in American society. Too major of a change can have too major of effects that will, in the end, upset more people than it will please, but only time will tell.
Word Count: 684
MIDN Ben Werve