Cancelling Student Debt: A Violation of the Freedom of Contract

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Monday, January 4, 2021


244 years ago, Thomas Jefferson made the radical assertion that “all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” From there, he presented the raison d’être of government: “to secure these rights.” 

It follows naturally that, if the prime justification for the existence of government is the protection of our lives, liberties, and properties, the government must refrain from committing any action which would violate our liberties, lest it undermine its very justification for existence.

This self-evident fact is increasingly being ignored or outright opposed by the left, which brings us to the issue of cancelling student debt. Led by “the Squad,” the Democrats are embracing the idea of cancelling student debt, advocating forgiving anywhere between $10,000 per graduate to all debt. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has even advocated for the apparent President-elect Joe Biden to forgive up to $50,000 of student debt via executive order. (A dubious proposal, legally speaking.) While those like Brad Polumbo have done an excellent job showing this is little more than a bailout for the rich, it must also be acknowledged that cancelling student debt would violate the very rights government is meant to secure, namely, the freedom of contract. 

You are free to exercise your rights as you please, so long as you do not violate the rights of others. What you have no right to do is avoid the consequences of exercising your rights by imposing them on your fellow Americans, and that is just what cancelling student debt does. 

The calls to “cancel student debt” by those like Rep. Ilhan Omar are dishonest. There is no such thing as “cancelling student debt.” Rather, a more honest slogan would be “transfer the burden of student debt.” 

To whom would this debt be transferred? The taxpayers, of course! 

In allowing those Americans with student debt to escape the burden incurred by exercising their freedom of contract, this policy would violate every other Americans’ freedom of contract. You have every right to consent to student loans to get a college degree. But by what right may you impose such debt on those who never consented to take on the debt? 

By what right may a new college graduate place the burden of their debt on another college graduate who just recently paid off their loans? By what right may that new college graduate place the burden of their debt on a plumber who found himself a stable and fulfilling career while purposefully avoiding the debt associated with college? Did the former graduate and the plumber receive the food and housing the new graduate received in the dorms? Did they get to utilize the library, student health center, and all other resources provided to the new graduate? Did they get the education the new graduate received? Did they get the degree and the career opportunities the degree will bring forth? Most importantly, did they voluntarily consent to incur the debt as a way to get access to the aforementioned benefits of a college degree? 

I think noton all accounts. 

Furthermore, there is no limiting principle to this violation of our freedom of contract. Forcing those who did not consent to student loans to pay off the student loans of others is but a single manifestation of the broader violation of the freedom contract; the leftist idea that those who consented to take on a debt may place the burden of that debt on those who did not consent. If such an egregious violation of the freedom of contract is allowed to stand concerning student loans, there will be no logical basis on which to prevent it from spreading to mortgages, healthcare, car loans, rent, credit card debt, etc. Americans could find themselves being taxed to pay off countless debts they never consented to, all for benefits they’ll never receive. 

It is just as repugnant a violation of natural law to impose a debt on someone without their consent as it is to deprive someone of their right to consent to taking on a debt of any sorts whether it be for college or some other good or service. Your neighbor cannot make you bear the burden of his student loans anymore than the person in front of you at Chick-fil-A could make you pay for his sandwich. If the freedom of contract is to be upheld, “cancelling student loans” must be opposed. 

While the student debt crisis is a problem, the Democrats’ alleged solution is just the latest example of the left’s so called “positive rights” violating our God-given rights. The freedom of contract must be protected.

Jack Shields is a student at Texas A&M University. He is a history major and huge Dallas Cowboys fan, with interests in politics, religion, and philosophy.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Jack Shields

Jack Shields is a student at Texas A&M University. He is a history major and huge Dallas Cowboys fan, with interests in politics, religion, and philosophy.

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