Chapter 1: Context of debt problems
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This chapter outlines normative thinking around debt and its links to religion. It also maps the developments which have led to the fact that over-indebtedness now affects substantial numbers of private households in all economically advanced countries. The simple explanation for this is that credit has become ubiquitous, also described as the “democratization of credit availability”. The focus is on six countries – the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Norway – representing three different welfare state traditions but all with serious household debt problems. The chapter defines over-indebted persons as those who have defaulted on claims that have been confirmed through the courts and which are collected by creditors. These include claims which can be distrained (seized) without litigation (for example unpaid taxes) or which through administrative regulated processes or otherwise can lead to serious consequences, such as leaving a household with no electricity, heating or water). Finally, credit-based social policy is discussed.

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