It’s Simple, If You Borrow Money You Pay It Back

“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:7)

I was scrolling through my newsfeed today and came across this little gem:

Why I Defaulted On My Student Loans

The author of this particularly inspiring tale regales us with a heartbreaking narrative of how at the age of 17 he signed his life away by taking on student loans to pay for his apparently mandatory excursion to a small private liberal arts college. Then through a series of unfortunate events that were of no fault of his own (such as him choosing to take out a second loan, his parents getting divorced and him deciding that he was too good stay in his retail job selling shoes) he finds himself unable (unwilling) to pay the loans back. We are then uplifted as he tells of his triumph as he stood up to the evil bank (which ironically has long since gone out of business, probably because they were foolish enough to loan money to people who feel they don’t need to pay them back) and how he heroically refused to fulfill his obligations in spite of the hardships brought upon by the Department of Education who, I quote, “makes it hard for you, and ugly.” He ends with a message of “hope”, saying that if everyone else who is being stifled underneath the inhumane burdens of student debt were to just say “Enough” like he did, then the “corrupt system”, that has the audacity to expect people to live up to their commitments of a contract, could finally be defeated.

It’s a classic tale of victory over oppression; I look forward to the movie.

I’m being sarcastic of course. This article highlights everything that is wrong with this country. People make bad decisions that have bad consequences. Then they feel that they are too good for those consequences and completely abandon their responsibilities while claiming the moral high ground on the basis that those to whom they are indebted to are inherently evil.

This tragic tale started with a kid making a terrible decision. It should have been a massive red flag right at the beginning as he was planning to go to a “small private liberal arts college”. There are two big warning signs right there. Firstly, that it was a small private school, meaning you are most likely going to be paying 4 times as much for an equivalent education that could be received elsewhere. I’m not saying that small private schools are inherently evil, and that you should never go to them. But if you have to resort to garnering insane amounts of debt to go there, you probably should be considering other alternatives. Secondly, it was a liberal arts college, meaning that more than likely whatever you are studying there is of no real value when it comes to preparing you for a career. I’m not saying it is of no value at all; it might help you be a very well rounded person to know a thing or two about Renaissance Art, but are you really going to be able to make a career with that?

So right from the beginning this genius was going to a school that cost way more than he could afford for an education that would have absolutely zero value in the end. Brilliant!

As anyone with even the slightest bit of common sense would have guessed, the story goes downhill rather quickly:

“I found myself confronted with a choice that too many people have had to and will have to face. I could give up what had become my vocation (in my case, being a writer) and take a job that I didn’t want in order to repay the huge debt I had accumulated in college and graduate school. Or I could take what I had been led to believe was both the morally and legally reprehensible step of defaulting on my student loans, which was the only way I could survive without wasting my life in a job that had nothing to do with my particular usefulness to society. I chose life. That is to say, I defaulted on my student loans.”

So this particular bastion of integrity apparently was fully capable of paying off his debt. He could have gotten another job that actually paid something, and worked to pay off the debt that he legitimately owes, and he willingly admits that he could have done that. But that would apparently “waste his life”, and he was too good for that. Apparently getting a job that actually has a paycheck has “nothing to do with his usefulness to society”. Because of this realization he decided to do the “right thing” (aka, what makes him the happiest) by defaulting on his debt.

It’s sickening really. Apparently doing whatever makes you the happiest is the right thing to do, even if it means running from your responsibilities. Apparently doing what you want to do is more righteous than honoring your word. Apparently theft is more righteous than honor.

Because that is what defaulting on a loan is, it is theft. It is taking money that belongs to someone else and refusing to pay it back: Theft. If you believe that you should not be obligated to pay your debts, then you are a thief, for all intents and purposes. You can argue about how you were young when you signed up for it, you didn’t realize what you were doing. You can argue that the interest rates are criminally high. You can argue about how the banks that issue the loans are greedy corporations (embodied by a balding man in his late 50’s) that only cares about profit at the expense of the poor college dropout who is down on his luck. But at the end of the day, you took money from someone else, and you are refusing to give it back. You stole that money from them. That is despicable.

To make matters worse, he is not only unashamedly admitting to his thievery, but he is encouraging everyone else to do the same with these words of wisdom:

“As difficult as it has been, I’ve never looked back. The millions of young people today, who collectively owe over $1 trillion in loans, may want to consider my example … it is possible to survive the life of default. You might want to follow these steps: Get as many credit cards as you can before your credit is ruined. Find a stable housing situation. Pay your rent on time so that you have a good record in that area when you do have to move. Live with or marry someone with good credit (preferably someone who shares your desperate nihilism).”

So according to the oracles of selfishness, he says that everyone who owes student loan debts should refuse to pay it back, and then manage the aftermath by (1) opening up as many credit cards as they can so they can wrack even more debt (2) Pay their rent, as if that wasn’t already something that people pretty much have to do to live somewhere (3) Chose your spouse based on their credit score so that you can take them down into the pits of your debt along with you (Mazel tov).

The idiocy of this thought process is almost more than I can bear. What makes me weep though is that I know that there are scores of people out there that will applaud this should be criminal for his heroic acts of selfishness. This goes beyond simply not wanting to pay back some loans. Embedded in this belief is the larger message of self-entitlement. Everyone has a “right” to a higher education regardless of what they are studying is of any use and regardless of whether they can afford it. If they can’t afford it then they have a “right” to a “loan” with which they have no obligation to actually pay it back, because that would infringe upon their “right” to an easier life. They have a “right” to a living wage, regardless of whether or not they have done anything to earn it. Everyone has a “right” to everything being handed to them on a silver platter (except of course those that have worked hard to earn what they have, in which case they deserve to have what they have earned taken away from them and given to those that haven’t earned it).

I almost feel sorry for this guy. He was lead to believe, apparently by his parents who cosigned his loan, and by society at large, that he apparently had no choice but to go to college and spend an exorbitant amount of money, which he didn’t have, for an “education” in order for him to be able to make anything of himself. However, these sources apparently never told him that this plan only works if you get an education that is actually, you know, useful. Instead he believes that going to college is an end, in and of itself, and that in the end he will be showered with easy jobs and lots of money simply because he is now “college educated”.  Exactly what he planned to do with this “education” is of little to no relevance.

The most I can figure he intended to use this education so that he could become a writer. Apparently one must go to at least 4 years of higher education to learn how to do something that is taught in grade school. And can you even teach good writing? Somebody is either a good writer, or they aren’t. It’s a talent, sure it can be honed into a real skill, but it starts from talent. Good writing is more of an art than a science. If someone has the talent for writing, they don’t need college. One doesn’t need college in order to read the classics by the great authors of generations past and learn what good writing is. One doesn’t need college in order to practice writing. One doesn’t need to spend their life’s fortune learning to do something that is innately in their bones to do. I find it ironic that he says that, “It struck me as absurd that one could amass crippling debt as a result, not of drug addiction or reckless borrowing and spending, but of going to college.” I have a hard time seeing how spending private college money, for a degree to do something that really doesn’t require a college education to do, isn’t the very epitome of reckless borrowing and spending.

Don’t get me wrong, going to college can be a good thing. I myself went to college and got a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, and followed that up with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineer. The difference is that I am putting both of those degrees to good use, with a solid career designing control systems for Jet Engines, making a good salary, with plenty of room for career advancement. College can be a useful tool for someone who wants a career that requires higher education. Doctors, Lawyers, nurses, teachers, pharmacists, these are all excellent careers to pursue, and having a college degree in these fields is essential for being successful. But the person studying Medieval French Literature, with no idea of what they would actually like to do with such a degree, has no business going to college to begin with. I suppose the exception could be if they have extra money to spend and are just looking to better themselves. But if they are going into debt, they should be going into debt for something that is worth the money.

Please understand what I’m saying. I’m not saying that anyone that takes out student loans are stupid. I realize that college, no matter what college you go to, costs a lot of money, and some people need the loans to get them through it. If you took out a student loan to help pay for a state college to get a degree to help you get a good career, and then paid your loan back, then good for you. You used a student loan exactly like you were supposed to. I’m also not saying that how much money your career makes is all that matters. I know some professions don’t pay very well, but are still noble and honorable professions. If you had to take out student loans to get you to one of those careers and you are now working to pay off your loan as quickly as you are able, then good for you.

But if you took out hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for a private college to get a degree that is useless at helping you get a career to pay for those loans, I’m sorry to say it, but you aren’t one of the brightest bulbs in the shed. And if you then simply refuse to pay the loan back, you’re not just stupid, you’re a criminal.

The author of this article poses the rhetorical question, “Am I a deadbeat?” Of course his own answer to that question is, no. He is a victim of his circumstance and corrupt system. I would tend to agree with him that there are some aspects of this system that are not right. The amount that college costs these days is obscene. The fact that student tuition is basically being used to subsidize research that has nothing to do with their actual education is downright criminal. I would agree that something drastic needs to change in our system of higher education. But the fact that college costs so much is no excuse for thievery. You can’t “borrow” money to pay for college, and then refuse to pay the money back on the grounds that the college should not have been so expensive to begin with. The fact that college costs too much money has no bearing on the fact that you borrowed money from someone, knowingly and willingly giving your word (in the form of signature on a contract) saying that you would pay it back with interest. Say what you will about colleges or banks, but they are legitimately owed that money from you.

I don’t care what your circumstances are; I don’t care how expensive the college was. No one forced you to go to college. No one forced you to sign on the dotted line. You chose to do all those things. You chose to put yourself into debt. And in a civilized society, you should fulfil your obligations to pay that debt back. If you don’t then you have proven that your word cannot be trusted, and no one should ever take you seriously again. You are a deadbeat, and so is everyone who follows your example.

 

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