Proclaim debt amnesty throughout all the land? A biblical solution to a present-day problem

Student loan debt is one of the most burdensome forms of debt in America today. According to oft-cited statistics, approximately 43 million Americans have student loan debt, cumulatively amounting to around US$1.7 trillion. The exorbitant costs of higher education in the United States, combined with the fact that educational credentials serve as a ticket to decent employment, require many students to take out loans that follow them long past graduation – and that are almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy.

Hence, calls for cancellation of student loan debt by legislative or executive action keep intensifying, and President Joe Biden is expected to respond by ordering cancellation of some amount, notwithstanding arguments against any blanket debt amnesty.

Yet this very policy is inscribed on the U.S. Liberty Bell. “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof!” it declares, quoting the biblical Book of Leviticus, 25:10. The Hebrew word translated “liberty,” “derōr,” actually refers to debt amnesty.

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