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A Modest Proposal for Curing Back Pain

The answer was obvious all along: forgive people's debts through LOBAPAREDEFOR.

by
Theodore Dalrymple

Bio

January 24, 2010 - 12:00 am
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There are, no doubt, naysayers who would object to the moral hazard, so-called, of such a policy. Would it not only increase future improvidence if past improvidence were so easily forgiven? But it is the universal opinion of philosophical historians that man is a creature that never learns from experience. There is no danger, therefore, that anyone will learn anything from the whole episode.

Banks, according to the naysayers, will not lend again if people are forgiven their debts. This again is nonsense. Both theoretical and empirical considerations prove it is not so. What are banks supposed to do with their deposits if not lend them? How else will they make their profits? And the briefest consideration of the history of Argentina, to take only one example from Latin America, establishes beyond all reasonable doubt that defaulting on debt every few years is not in the least incompatible with borrowing large sums very soon afterwards. The great thing about economic decision making is that mirages spring eternal.

Of course, as a doctor I am not primarily concerned with money or economics. I am much more moved by the vast reduction in pain, and the increase in quality-adjusted life years, that debt forgiveness will bring about.

But who, you ask, is to enforce the low back pain-reducing debt-forgiveness (LOBAPAREDEFOR for ease of reference) program?

That is an easy one to answer: an executive order would do the trick. After all, if you can call money into existence at the stroke of a pen, surely it is possible to make it disappear by the same means. Besides, it would be one in the eye for all those overpaid creditors, who do nothing all day except rake in the interest, and therefore a blow for equality.

LOBAPAREDEFOR is a public health measure we can all support. It would reduce human suffering enormously. Besides, it is time the fat slobs got off their backsides and went back to work.

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Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His new book is Second Opinion: A Doctor's Notes from the Inner City.
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