REVIEW: Richard Vague — The Case for a Debt Jubilee (BOOK)

Newfound author and Secretary of Banking and Securities for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Richard Vague is not by any stretch a naturally polished writer, nor does he need to be. The style of the writing in his new book, titled The Case for a Debt Jubilee, is conversational and straightforward. With concepts as heady and potentially dense for the average consumer as financial policy in the face of Covid-19, that’s a good thing. As a public official, one of Vague’s greatest strengths as a storyteller is his sense of calm. He’s not overtly paternalistic, but he speaks with the kind of straight-shooting clarity and candor you’d expect from someone in his position, pacifying any sort of uncertainties when engaging with the text. He doesn’t ever lower himself from his level of articulation and expertise, but he doesn’t lord it over you either.


There’s a sense what you’re getting is an A to Z summary, a sort of a straight truth rather than a partisan argument, and considering how some of the most important issues facing the American public today are politicized — that too raises Case for a Debt Jubilee above the already high-ranking literary bar. “With high debt in major economies, and with the likelihood that this will get worse rather than better, forms of debt amnesty are rapidly becoming must-haves rather than merely nice-to-haves. In other words, the imperative for debt amnesty is not the bleating of the unduly compassionate, but a hard-nosed assessment of the needs of the overall system.

Productive, realistic forms of debt amnesty are necessary to maintain a well-functioning economy,” Vague states emphatically. “The widespread existence of debt forgiveness in antiquity profoundly attests to the universality and persistence of the debt accumulation issue. We need modern-day private debt restructuring and amnesty as a component of our economic system if we are to reduce an accumulated level of debt sufficiently to significantly improve things, and to do so without damaging the economy.”

Like any good argumentation of policy, Vague is willing to turn over his own intellectual sentiments three hundred-and-sixty-degrees, admitting where there are potential risks and pitfalls. He’s balanced in his approach and never comes across as an absolutist, something that has overtaken the modern political forum by storm. While those on the right may never see eye-to-eye with Vague’s convictions, and the more progressive wing of the left may be accusatory in terms of being overly ‘moderate’, he stands firmly on his two feet. While clearly impassioned about the causes he feels are pressing matters that need to be addressed urgently within the present time, he mutes that considerably to let the facts drive the narrative — never the other way around. As a result, detractors of his ideology can never out-and-out dismiss Vague as a sentimentalist, nor as a staunch liberal Democrat.


He is simply someone convinced of the validity of his statistically-backed observations, and he’s forthright but never at the expense of tangibility. “The initiatives proposed in this book will have a liberating and energizing effect on the economy and reduce inequality,” he states. “Lower debt levels will measurably improve the lives of millions of Americans. All stand to gain. Households will be stronger. Governments, businesses, and financial institutions will be better off because households will be stronger, and more able to allocate money toward consumption, investment, and key purchases rather than debt service and repayment. The economic engine will simply run better — not just for the wealthiest but for all.”

Colin Jordan

Graduate: McNeese State University, Avid Beekeeper, Deep Sea Diver & Fisherman, Horrible Golfer