The trouble with this familiar old saw not that it is misquoted or misunderstood, but that it is such dangerous advice. Nor is it improved, as many quotations are, by being restored to its original context:
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;For loan oft loses both itself and friend,And
borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. (Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act I, scene
In an economic system like capitalism, unsated by the most extravagant waste and debt, this would be unorthodox advice to say the least. But then, most proverbial wisdom on this topic has a wonderful irrelevance in the modern world. For example, ‘waste not, want not’. Debt is the drug of system too, and a mortgage on the future. OK on the individual level, but it mortgages the whole of future society too – under capitalism. Planned obsolescence as conquest of time by making it effectively pass faster. Fashion as socially approved form of whim. Conspicuous consumption.
The successive crises of over-production of the kind to which capitalism is so prone are only exacerbated by beggaring our children. Brave New World homilies to waste as fundamental truths of consumer capitalism. It expands the basis of production, and thus of sales and profit. But it adds nothing to our objective well-being. Individual indebtedness in Britain.Indebtedness of the Third World. Debt as basis of power over Third World and quiescence at home.
The gap (and indifference) between profit, technical excellence and human need.