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Many followers of the Occupy Wall Street movement are undoubtedly already aware of it's latest endeavor--the Rolling Jubillee Movement.  The movement describes itself in the following way on their website:

How Does Rolling Jubilee Work?

Banks sell debt for pennies on the dollar on a shadowy speculative market of debt buyers who then turn around and try to collect the full amount from debtors. The Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt, keeping it out of the hands of collectors, and then abolishing it. We’re going into this market not to make a profit but to help each other out and highlight how the predatory debt system affects our families and communities. Think of it as a bailout of the 99% by the 99%.

I'm profoundly intrigued by this movement's potential for a number of reasons.

Their "$1 will abolish $20 worth of consumer debt message" cures economic inefficiences that plague most grassroots fundraising efforts.

The first reason this movement intrigues me is because I think it's model escapes some of the economic inefficiencies that prevent small donations to grassroots movements. If you ask someone to donate five dollars to a cause it's difficult for the potential donor to know how those five dollars will be put to use.  This is especially the case when donating to grassroots political causes because the way they gather donations and allocate them to different campaigns is either clouded in mystery, or too tedious of a task for a small donor to seriously investigate.  Thus the small donor is in a situation where they are unable to determine whether their five dollar donation will bring about five dollars worth of value to them in terms of supporting their cause.  Only people who are extremely dedicated to the grassroots cause end up giving.  

Rolling Jubilee's messaging completely solves this inefficiency by making it crystal clear what effect any size donation will have towards achieving their group's stated goal.  I knew upfront that if I donated $5, that the end result would be $100 worth of consumer debt being abolished.  Thus I was able to make the calculus of whether abolishing $100 worth of debt was worth $5 to me.  I decided it was and so I donated $5.

To make the point clearer, imagine if instead the message was: "Donate $5 today and help us organize on behalf of the people against corporate debt collection."  I certainly am sympathetic to their cause, but I'm totally unable to ascertain what end result my $5 donation will achieve.  Due to this inefficiency, I'd be less likely to donate.

A recent Nielsen study asked participants to choose one of two charities (within the same category) after looking at their websites; and then to donate to the chosen charity, through the charity website, using their own credit cards.

The study found that participants wanted, most of all, to see an organization's mission, goals, objectives, and work. Secondly they wanted to know how the charity uses their donations and contributions.

Rolling Jubilee's donor base has the potential to grow exponentially as it abolishes more and more debt.

Right now let's face it, only committed activists are donating to Rolling Jubilee.  However, Rolling Jubilee also intends to send certified letters to each person that it abolishes debt on behalf of, informing them that their debt has been abolished.  It seems reasonable to me to suspect that some of these people will in turn, feel grateful enough to donate a few bucks to Rolling Jubilee, or at least tell their friends about the awesome stroke of luck they've had, who in turn might be interested in donating.  

Thus as more and more debt is discharged, it seems likely that Rolling Jubilee might become more widely known and have an increasing donor base.

Roling Jubilee is Much More than a Bailout

One of the best reasons to give to Rolling Jubilee is that it acts as a de facto bailout of actual people who are struggling with debt.  In essence it represents collective action on behalf of the people.  Action that our government has been unwilling or unable to undertake.  This is a great reason in and of itself to support Rolling Jubilee.

However, let's map this out a bit because I think that while Jubilee is clearly interested in bailing people out, that there is a much broader motive here.

Eventually, creditors will not be able to tolerate Jubilee and they will have to stop selling debt to them.  Otherwise, they'd basically be signaling to debtors that they do not have to pay, instead they can just organize and get everyone's debt discharged.  This will help create a very public showdown between Jubilee and Wall Street on an issue that Wall Street is very vulnerable on--consumer debt.  

But unlike the Occupy dynamics where Occupy was seen as a disruptive force--closing down public roads, occupying public parks, etc.,  Jubilee will be seen as a group of do-gooders wanting nothing more than to help people in need.  And so unlike Occupy, which hit Wall Street on the issue of inequality, but was seen as disruptive--Jubilee has the potential to hit Wall Street on the issue of consumer debt, but be perceived as the unquestioned good guy.  The dynamics are much more favorable than with Occupy.  

Originally posted to tiimbitz4786 on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:45 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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