Americans have always been of two minds about credit. On one hand, they view the flip side of credit (debt) as useful when used sparingly by those who would not become so indebted as to become beholden to their creditors. Overused, misused, or abused, as every debtor from Thomas Jefferson to the modern suburbanite realizes too late, credit is as much bane as benefit. Jefferson rued his debt once he realized that “there can be no freedom or beauty about a home or life that depends on borrowing and debt.”1 On the other hand, Americans treat credit as a necessary subsidiary to business and a thing to be cultivated and nurtured. Benjamin Franklin advised young men to inspire confidence in their creditors by letting them hear the sound of their hammers morning and night (14).

Olegario observes that the tension between Jefferson’s and Franklin’s sentiments has been evident at...

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