Debt: How to enslave a ‘free’ people

First let’s not kid ourselves; slavery makes for tough conversation at the best of times. As for personal debt, that doesn’t exactly make for a good chinwag either. But to not discuss these issues out of sheer awkwardness is to non-verbally declare that you are part a courtesy bias that amplifies the problem.

Slavery occurs in many forms, has existed almost as long as we have, and still does today*. The analogous parallels between debt and slavery are staggering. By identifying the constructs that allow them to exist, we raise awareness of the fact this is not something to be blasé about. Now I have never been a slave, so my ability to comment on the psyche of being one is obviously limited. But what I can discuss is one of the main tools used to mentally subjugate Slaves, and how this mirrors the mechanics that keeps indebted people in debt today.

Historically, the most notorious employers of slavery made its normalisation a fundamental part of establishing the longevity of the bondage. In so doing, the Masters made the Slaves believe that servitude was simply their lot in life and that no other way of living was possible (for them). Propaganda, pseudoscience, religion and social stratification were the tools of this normalisation; moulding the mind of the Slave until defiance became compliance (and even gratitude in some known cases).


So how does debt tie in to this?


Internet, TV and radio are today’s indoctrination tools. You do not have to look far to see ads driving credit purchases and entire business models built on “don’t pay anything today”. It comes as no surprise then that a recent PEW study** highlights a whopping 68% of us believe that debt is necessary to make purchases that our “income and savings alone could not support”. The paper also unveils exponential increases in consumer credit over the last decade, and goes on to highlight that 43% of households spend more than they make a month. These statistics illustrate the engineering of societal expectations to the point that it is ok value short-term gratification over long-term self-detriment, and this can have serious repercussions…

One such repercussion is that this is driving inflation. As people are more willing to pay later for things that were once bought over the counter, retailers can charge more through interest. When prices rise faster than wages, real household income falls. And this isn’t the end of it. Debt has been highlighted as a root cause of increases in suicide rates since the global financial crash***. People literally so depressed and entrapped by debt that that are taking their lives!

To be clear, I am not saying that you should never use debt. And it does not have to be all doom and gloom. When used wisely, it can be effective in reaching your financial goals faster. But by engineering beliefs of what is the norm, communities become self-limiting as our expectations have a huge impact on what we believe to be achievable. And this is far more powerful than any chains of bondage…


*International Labour Organisation estimates an astounding 21 million people in forced labour

**PEW Study

***,  The Independent,  Samaritans,  Money and Mental Health


  1. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS! Last year i was in debt and if it wasn’t for my kids and my supportive family I really think I would have committed suicide.

    Debt is horrible and I ams so glad to be rid of it. It controls you in a way that dictates your life and you really feel that there is no escape. Just like slavery

    1. Wow… I am so sorry to hear that, and I’m glad you were able to stabalise yourself. I completely understand the quagmire feeling that comes with debt. the thoughts that it will never end. Just feeling entrapped.

      Happy that yourefamily were there for you when it mattered too! If you ever need a quick chat if things get too much, please tweet/comment/email me and I will be happy to just have a chat. Sometimes stranger can offer great insight! =]

  2. So powerful and so true. I am in the process of digging myself out of £300,000 worth of debt and I can tell you that this has not been easy in the slightest. If it is agreed that slavery kept people oppressed, then debt definitely does the exact same thing

    1. Thanks for reading, Darren! And keep on it! Debt sucks. Fact. But by getting a hold of it, as you seem to be doing, you sever the ties that bind you to it. With each re-payment, you buy back your freedom!

  3. When I started reading this I was like here we go with another click-baity triggered article on twitter, but this is very eye opening and I actually agree with most of it

    1. Hi Sara! Literally exacly my mindset! You’d sooner have low income and own it all, then have a high income that all belongs to debt! Thanks for reading!

  4. Interesting article.

    Like the historical masters of slavery that were typically well connected to the political elite and decision makers.

    I’d not be surprised if today’s owners of pay day loan companies have these same connections and political influence, besides there’s incredible amounts of money to be made from today’s debt enslaved.

    1. David! SUCH TRUTH!!

      Literally throughout history, the elite have built wealth off the backs of the poor.

      Adverts that sound like they are being helpful, such as:

      “we will give you a loan if you cannot survive until payday”…

      … All snares to keep the poor man in his place!

      thanks for reading and commenting! =]

  5. Hi MTM,

    Having read through many articles you’ e written I admire your efforts to save money.

    However you’d be able to save for a house much quicker if you moved out of London. There are plenty of job opportunities outside the capital and your living costs would be much lower also. Seems to me you are wasting money that could be saved.

    Just a thought,


    1. Hi Laura,

      First of all thanks so much for reading through our articles! I cannot wholly agree with you that our costs would be drastically lower outside of the capital though. I think you only see noticeable differences in living costs in the north of the country.

      I’ll explain…

      We currently spend £300 a month on a quality place in London Bridge that we rent. I walk to work too so no travel costs. And to buy a cheaper house, we would have to move significantly further north.

      But the main pull for our living there is the proximity to our friends and family – personally I couldn’t put a value on that. It’s where I grew up.

      I think living here takes a different kind of frugality. You almost have to say “nope – not paying that much” and work a little bit harder until you find a price that you ARE willing to pay – such as my rent.

      I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this, though, so please reply to this comment – I love getting other people’s insight!

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