Debt, Development and the Biosphere

Essay by TonyahardingCollege, UndergraduateA-, October 2004

download word file, 21 pages 4.3

"Thou shalt sanctify the fiftieth year...and shalt proclaim remission to all the inhabitants of thy land: for it is the year of jubilee." This claim is found in the Old Testament in Leviticus 25:10. It is the premise behind the Jubilee 2000 campaign launched by British Christian based charities to relieve the external debt of developing countries. This ancient holy law was designed to protect the social fabric of the Israelite society; every fifty years creditors would forgive the debtors and farmers would re-claim land they sold to recover from bad years of harvest. Over two thousand years later this law can be seen as comparable to the bankruptcy protection in capitalist societies, however, in contemporary times farmers do not get their land back. 'Sovereign' external debt in our current international system is a political creation and by coercion it is unforgivable and has broken the social fabric of the society within the debt afflicted states.

The current trend of globalization since the breakdown and narrow retooling of the Bretton Woods system is exacerbating and perpetuating the unweaving of the social fabric inside debt ridden states. Sovereign debt is quantifiable, but the real net cost of the debts is hard to fully calculate. The external debt levels of developing countries create cascading and diachronic waves of environmental and social damages that are visible but incalculable, which can lead to more debt to ease the pain of the original damage caused by unsustainable debt levels. There are perspectives that can explain the reason for the debt problems. Critical perspectives such as neo-colonialism, dependency and neo-marxism offer logically sound arguments, however this essay will try to construct a view through a lens of environmentalism with a social filter. The view is that without international bankruptcy laws among other essential reforms to the...