Taking the case of funding models for free debt advice in the UK, this article argues that the anthropology of austerity has much to gain by asking what survives, or even thrives, under conditions of austerity. Beginning in the 1990s, flows of money from the retail financial industry to free debt advice organizations proliferated, generally upon an identified mutuality of interests between the two. This culminated in the establishment by the UK government of a bank levy in 2012, said to operate on the principle of ‘polluter pays’, replacing general taxation as the main source of funding for public debt advice. Yet as it stands, the bank levy fails as a potential alternative to austerity because it taxes the institutions that issue debt to the poor at high rates of interest in order to provide the poor with advice that increasingly cannot solve their problems.
- SPS Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice