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Debt and Forgetting

Oct 26, 2017

In light of our upcoming conference on consumerism, here’s a good read from the U of A’s Parkland Institute:

The Debt Crisis: A case of false memory syndrome

by Trevor Harrison

“The acclaimed author, Milan Kundera, has written that, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” But the ongoing world financial crisis shows how false memories can fool us and make us unable to confront corporate power.

For over a year, we have been bombarded with stories of the threat of “sovereign defaults.” The PIGS – one can imagine political conservatives salivating as they arrived at that acronym – Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain (to which add another “I” if one includes Ireland) have been roundly denounced for the size of their public debt to GDP (83 percent in Portugal, 94 percent in Ireland, 118 percent in Italy, 144 percent in Greece, and 63 percent in Spain). Then, to these countries as the year progressed was added the United States at 60 percent to GDP.

In terms of the latter, US debt is substantially lower than it was at end of the Second World War. Government spending helped win the war (in conjunction with the other Allied countries), while also pulling the country out of the Great Depression and, through the programs of the New Deal, set the stage for economic growth and a more egalitarian society in the decades that followed.”


Dr. Harrison is Professor of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Science, University of Lethbridge.  He is also co-director of the Parkland Institute.

The Parkland Institute is an Alberta research network situated within the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. It operates within the established and distinctive tradition of Canadian political economy and is non-partisan.

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