An ancient Athenian reformer named Solon instituted a series of reforms known as Seisachtheia, translated to “shaking off the burdens.” Originally, anyone who could not repay their debts had to forfeit their land and become a serf. They became serfs and had to give a majority of their produce to the creditors. The culture was so harsh were even forced into slavery or sell their children. People were even forced into exile for fear of their creditors. When Solon was elected as the Archon, he put the Seisachtheia into effect. The purpose of this was to free all the debtors and return the land to the original holders. He also outlawed exchanging person freedoms in exchange for debt (Britannica). Solon’s goal was to create more equality in Athens, using the catch phrase, “equality breeds no strife” (Plutarch life of Solon). This reform worked for a short period of time, but eventually ended poorly. The creditors did not receive any compensation and were furious, while the poor people could no longer borrow land that they needed. This reform angered Athens as a whole and Solon lost his power. This incident can be directly compared to topics today, and I believe that it would have a similar outcome now as it did centuries ago.
Democratic Presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had similar values in their recent campaigns. They wanted to make college free, absolving students of their debt. Making school free seems smart on paper. It is expensive, so who wouldn’t want to receive a higher education for free? Also, these candidates would potentially grasp support from younger people or parents with large families. However I truly believe it would end similar to Solon’s Seisachtheia.
First off, how would school be paid for? Taxes would have to increase significantly in order to pay for school. This would anger a lot of citizens that don’t want to pay taxes. Banks would also be effected because they would not be able to make money giving out student loans. This is very similar to the rich creditors that did not receive compensation for their loans. Another problem would be that people could get complacent. If college is free, why should they have to work hard for a scholarship to lighten the load? Students would also not be afraid to lose their scholarship or even fail out because they wouldn’t feel as though that is money they are losing. This negatively impacts the recipients because it gives them less incentive to work hard and succeed. This goal of free school is similar to Solon’s Seisachtheia, and would end poorly just as Seisachtheia did.
Even if there are some positives, the thought of shaking off burdens and free school seem like good ideas at first that would please the general population. However when put into effect, they are logistical nightmares. There are too many moving parts that inevitably would just have negative effects on those that are supposed to be benefiting.
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