In order to play for keeps, put himself to the test, and know who he is, Jeder must take on a mortgage. In this country, he is not a man until he makes a down payment on a house, goes heavily into debt in business, or mortgages his working years to bring up his children. Those who have no mortgages are regarded as carefree, beautiful, or lucky people, but not as real people. The banker's television commericals show the great day in Jeder's life: the day he mortgages his earnings for the next twenty or thirty years to buy a house. The day he pays off the mortgage he is out of it and ready for the old people's home. This danger can be averted by taking on a bigger mortgage for a bigger house...
Most well-organized societies, in one way or another, provide a way for young people to mortgage themselves and thus give meaning to their lives. Otherwise they might just spend their time enjoying themselves, as they do still in a few places. In that case, there is no easy way of telling the winners from the losers. With a mortgage system, the population readily divides itself. People who don't even have enough gumption to mortgage themselves are losers (according to those who run the system). People who spend their lives paying off the mortgage, so they can never get much ahead, are the silent majority of nonwinners. The people who hold the mortgages are the winners.—
What can be said of mortgages can also be said of student loans or any form of debt which all mortgage your future earnings. In other words, any form of debt exposes your future to risk or constraint for the sake of immediate advantage.
Some people achieve temporary relief by accumulating possessions, by living in a bigger, better house than the Joneses, or even reveling in their modesty: I am humbler than you are. These maneuvers, which are based on what Adler called “guiding fictions,” may provide a welcome relief even though down the road may be a disaster in the form of an oppressive mortgage or consumptive bills, which commit the person to a life of perpetual drudgery.—