Chrystin Ondersma, "Dignity Not Debt: An Abolitionist Approach to Economic Justice" (U California Press, 2024)


American households have a debt problem. The problem is not, as often claimed, that Americans recklessly take on too much debt. The problem is that US debt policies have no basis in reality. Weaving together the histories and trends of US debt policy with her own family story, Chrystin Ondersma debunks the myths that have long governed debt policy, like the belief that debt leads to prosperity or the claim that bad debt is the result of bad choices, both of which nest in the overarching myth of a free market unhindered by government interference and accessible to all. 

In Dignity Not Debt: An Abolitionist Approach to Economic Justice (U California Press, 2024), Ondersma offers a compelling, flexible, and reality-based taxonomy rooted in the internationally recognized principle of human dignity. Ondersma's new categories of debt--grounded in abolitionist principles--revolutionize how policymakers are able to think about debt, which will in turn revolutionize the American debt landscape itself.

Stephen Pimpare is a Senior Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.

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Stephen Pimpare

Stephen Pimpare is Professor of Public Policy at Vermont Law and Graduate School.

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