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Tended 1 year ago Planted 1 year ago Mentioned 3 times


An obligation to someone, especially in a financial sense. Debt weaves its way into our lives more than we realize. As David Graeber writes in Debt: The First 5,000 Years, mutual debt can tie groups and communities together, while the quantification of a debt into a number can turn it into a weapon, a destroyer of relationships (just consider what it would mean to “pay off” the debt you owe a parent).

Fundamentally, debts are inseparable from time: we take on a debt because we want or need something now and are willing to let (and make) our future selves pay more for it. This can reflect an abiding hope in the future, as when you might take out a mortgage to buy a house for a growing family, sure that your future self will be at least as capable of paying the monthly payment as you are today. Or debts can reflect a cynical abdication of our responsibility to the future, as with climate change forcing future generations to pay the price for the cheap energy we demand today.


  • technical debt

    …they can choose to address it up front ("pay the debt off") or pay an ongoing percentage of their time working…

  • gift exchange

    …in [_Debt: The First 5,000 Years_](, economies based on mutual [[debt]] have been…