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Debtor NationThe History of America in Red Ink$
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Louis Hyman

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691140681

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691140681.001.0001

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Debt as Choice, Debt as Structure

Debt as Choice, Debt as Structure

(p.281) Epilogue Debt as Choice, Debt as Structure
Debtor Nation

Louis Hyman

Princeton University Press

This epilogue argues that the dependence on credit was the creation, intentional and unintentional, of the sometimes unlikely choices of government, business, and consumers. Over the first half of the twentieth century, government and business fashioned a new legal network of credit institutions and offered most American consumers a choice of whether or not to use this debt in their daily lives. By the end of the century, however, the choice to opt out of the credit system no longer remained. Three corporations assigned every American a credit rating. Their opinions governed consumers' ability to rent and to buy housing, to afford an education, to shop for clothes and food, to commute to work, and even to receive medical care—that is, the basic materials of daily life. Even to get a job, a worker needed good credit. Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to use credit ceased to exist for the American consumer.

Keywords:   credit, credit institutions, American consumers, debt, credit system, credit rating

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