Solon vs. Sanders: Relieving Debt

A hot topic for this year’s election with the Democratic presidential candidates is centered on the idea of forgiving student debt. In comparison to Solon and his set of laws, the Seisachtheia, there can be similarities found in terms of management of debt and equality for the general population, but there are some differences that can be identified from the results of both.

One of the top runners for the Democratic Party is Bernie Sanders, who has a strong focus on the cancelling student debt in order to improve America, not just for generations to come but overall. Bernie Sanders wishes to provide the country with the opportunity for free college to improve literacy rates. This would open up education for all, regardless of “the income of [their] family” (Bernie Sanders).

Solon’s economic program, which involved the relief of debt slavery that occurred in Athens, seems comparable to Sanders’ modern idea. They both relate to the removal of debt from specific parties of people that is most relevant to their times. However, some may argue that today’s standards are not as severe as the past, because Solon’s laws were for very low-class individuals subjected to slavery to pay off dues. This meant that their loans were dependent on their life, while today, loans can be paid off through installments of money from working a job, and not to mention, slavery is illegal. Both ideals are meant to provide a common ground among the people. With Sanders, he allows for individuals from all flocks of life to gain access to higher education; with Solon, he allowed individuals from a lower background have the opportunity to be freer.

The results from both of these programs have negative outcomes that outweigh the more positive aspect of them. For Solon, his laws did in fact end slavery but ended up putting a great deal of people out of a job. It did more harm than good. In the case of eradicating all student debt, which would be a total of “$1.5 trillion in student loan debt guaranteed by the federal government,” this will be absolutely true in the future (Vedder). While forgiving the debt will greatly help poor college students who are greatly affected, it will drive the American economy into the ground and set an unfair disadvantage among certain college students

Sanders’ proposal for where the source of money would be coming from in order to pay off the debt is from the government. Our national debt is already at an uncomfortably high amount but to spend even more money (a total of $1.5 trillion) towards student debt will only raise it even higher (Vedder). Another issue around this is where the money will actually originate from which leads to the next point, because the money would be from taxpayers. The payment would fall back on the general population affecting even those who may have “[taken] out student loans, worked hard, lived frugally and paid off … what they borrowed” (Sloan). Those who are in far worse situations in debt will greatly benefit; on the other hand, those who had specifically chosen cheaper alternatives for education and worked hard to achieve this, will be set into paying for others.

Finally, by implementing a wide spread debt forgiveness program, be it slightly similar to Solon’s Seisachtheia, a great number of Americans will be negatively affected nonetheless. As previously stated, America’s economy will essentially collapse because of the rise in national debt and although the purpose is to “even the playing field” for everyone, it will be quite the opposite for those who were able to pay off even a portion of their student debt.

—Waehung Ng

Word Count: 580

“Free College, Cancel Debt.” Bernie Sanders – Official Campaign Website, 2020,

Sloan, Allan. “Perspective | Canceling All Student Debt Is a Bad Idea.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 July 2019,

Vedder, Richard. “Why Bernie Sanders’ Higher Ed Plan Is A Terrible Idea.” Forbes, 26 June 2019,

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