Tag Archives: credit

Film Club: “Repo Man” Turns 25

The cult classic film “Repo Man” turns 25 this year, and I’d like to mark the occasion by quoting this exchange between two of the lead characters. The context here is the moral justification for taking away people’s cars by stealth and subterfuge–an activity that looks very much like simple auto theft–when those people fail to make their contractual payments. According to Bud, the wizened Yoda to Otto’s Luke, repo work not only isn’t “stealing,” it’s a blow for justice and the American Way:

Bud: Credit is a sacred trust, it’s what our free society is founded on. Do you think they give a damn about their bills in Russia? I said, do you think they give a damn about their bills in Russia?

Otto: They don’t pay bills in Russia, it’s all free.

There’s something poignant now, even charmingly retro in the post-apocalyptic financescape of 2009, about the phrase “Credit is a sacred trust.” It seems to belong to another world.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan might have been thinking of Bud when he said in a 1990 commencement address at Harvard College,

Trust is at the root of any economic system based on mutually beneficial exchange. In virtually all transactions, we rely on the word of those with whom we do business…If a significant number of business people violated the trust upon which our interac¬≠tions are based, our court system and our economy would be swamped into immo¬≠bility.

Prophecy, or just a gloss of the Gospel According to “Repo Man?” You decide.

As for Otto’s utopian vision of the Russian socio-economic complex, credit cards and cowboy capitalism put an end to all that. For an excellent account (no pun intended), see Prof. Alya Guseva’s recent book, Into the Red (Stanford University Press, 2008).

Meanwhile, Happy Birthday “Repo Man!”

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Catastrophe Haiku Challenge!

For all three regular readers of this blog (and yes, I’m counting myself), I’ve decided to revive my Olde Tyme classroom haiku tradition. I used to offer this for extra credit to my students in the big “Organizational Sociology” and “Money and Society” lecture courses I taught at Brown University. I can no longer offer extra credit as an incentive for participation, but I hope my esteem will be a decent substitute.

To get things started, I offer my own modest entry, which attempts to boil the current economic crisis into 17 syllables:

No credit–no loans.

No loans means no capital.

No capitalism.

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