Lee Greenwood: Constitution Guarantees Bankruptcy = Freedom
Bankruptcy is protected by our constitution. In fact, nothing brings tears to the eyes of every American like a good rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” served over fireworks. This past weekend, our staff at Argyle Publishing enjoyed many good firework displays, all of which had one thing in common: Lee Greenwood.
“If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life And I had to start again With just my children and my wife
I’d thank my lucky stars To be living here today ‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom And they can’t take that away.”
“Start again” That sounds like bankruptcy. It turns out, nothing is more essential to American freedom than the right to take bankruptcy, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution. This wasn’t always the case.
In ancient Greece there was no bankruptcy. If a debtor could not pay his bills, he, his wife, and his children were forced into slavery. In ancient Rome, at least initially debtors could be put to death for unpaid debts. In later years, the penalty was tempered to mere life in prison. India, on the other hand, historically permitted a creditor to invade “with impunity” the debtor’s wife’s chastity as repayment for a debt. Finally, in 1542, England passed the Statute of Bankrupts, which protected debtors.
Given these historical atrocities, our Founding Fathers protected debtors by building the right of bankruptcy into our Constitution. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 guarantees “uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.” Debtor’s prison was outlawed. Congress finally passed laws in 1841, 1847, 1867, and 1898 (known as the Nelson Act) which established the modern concepts of debtor-creditor relations. These laws finally permitted voluntary bankruptcy. Today’s bankruptcy law, recently amended by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, permits debtors to file for voluntary bankruptcy, though the BAPCA made it substantially more difficult for debtors to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, under which most debts are forgiven.
Modern Bankruptcy = Freedom
Today, the flag still stands for freedom, a large part of which is the ability of all Americans to take bankruptcy. Famous debtor-Presidents who took bankruptcy include Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant. Without our voluntary bankruptcy laws, these great historical figures may never have had the impact they did on our country’s future, and the freedoms we enjoy today as Americans.