And on a non-governmental level - Megan McArdle has a good post about personal debt with "Should we care if people don't pay their debts?" "The answer seems to be "I don't want to pay, and as long as I'm willing to take the hit on my credit score, no one should judge me." Yet if this were the actual standard by which most Americans lived, would there be any market for unsecured debt? Or even secured debt for items that depreciate quickly? Seems unlikely."