In the 18th century, poor British youth accepted indentured servitude, a labor system whereby young people paid for their passage to the prosperity of the New World by working for an employer for a certain number of years. The employer purchased the indenture from sea captains who brought the youths across the sea to the colonies. Both sides were legally obligated to meet the terms, which were enforced by local American courts. Delinquents were captured and returned to their “owners”. About half of the immigrants to the American colonies in the 18th century were indentured.
In the 21st century, poor American youth accepts still accepts indenture for passage to prosperity. Ships and captains have been replaced by colleges and banks. About two thirds of college students incur an average debt of $26,000 and invest four years of their lives in this new voyage. However, unlike their 18th century brothers and sisters who were free after a term and open to virtually unlimited possibilities, today only a few good jobs remain after the factories have closed, unions busted, and the Golden Goose has been plucked fairly clean by the bankers, the hedge funders, Wall Street speculators, leverage buyout kings, and their willing accomplices in our government.
They thought they purchased a one way ticket to prosperity, only to find out it was a round trip. After the cap and gown are gone, all that is left are the same jobs with mediocre wages they sought to flee. They have fulfilled their half of the bargain but those in control of the American economy have not fulfilled theirs. Worse yet, they are bound by law to pay their debts. The “sea captains” will be paid regardless of outcome. There are no refunds, no arbitration, no bankruptcy provision.
And yet there is bankruptcy throughout this scheme, only it lies in the bankruptcy of morality in the American economic system.