Created By: billybobfred on June 16, 2011 Last Edited By: billybobfred on November 14, 2011

Debt Is Power

Lending money to a person gives you power over them

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I'm not confident this counts as a trope. If this goes anywhere, it's Up for Grabs as usual and Needs a Better Description -- in particular, we don't want an Example as a Thesis.
Bob needs some money. You have money. You lend Bob some of your money. Now he owes you.

Occasionally, the borrower is the one with the power. After all, he can't pay his debts if he's dead/in prison/whatever. The probability of this being the case increases with the amount of money owed.

This is why you Never Lend to a Friend.
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • June 16, 2011
    • The entire plot of The Merchant Of Venice is driven by the antagonist's loan to the main character.
    • An episode of The Simpsons has Homer essentially made Patty and Selma's slave when they lend him money (since they're threatening to tell Marge). He kicks them out of his house when she finds out anyway.
  • June 16, 2011
    Compare Work Off The Debt, but in more extreme cases it can lead debt slavery.
  • July 1, 2011
    In the beginning of Freefall, Sam owes Sawtooth some money. Sam takes advantage of it here.
  • July 1, 2011
    Compare I Owe You My Life, where the debt is due to Alice saving Bob's life. That trope mentions Alice taking advantage of Bob's debt to her.
  • November 13, 2011
    In Recettear, Recette is bound to work for Tear in the item shop until she can pay of her inherited debt.

    In all honesty, I think the trope title is expressing the dominance relationship backwards. Thus a title like Debt Equals Submission or Loan Equals Power would be more fitting.
  • November 13, 2011
    Icelandic Sagas "he had many sons and lent lots of money to his neighbours" is used to mean "lived happily ever after".
  • November 13, 2011
    "Owe the bank $1,000 dollars and the bank owns you. Owe the bank $1,000,000 dollars and you own the bank." - famous saying
  • November 13, 2011
    I don't like this title. It's ambiguous. Consider "Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be" or "Debtor's Prison" or "I Owe My Soul to the Company Store" or "Loan Shark"

    Examples: Most Dickens characters, most real people.
  • November 13, 2011
    A key point of the All Devouring Black Hole Loan Sharks. May not be monetary, even, how many times have you heard the words "you owe me" in a sinister context in media?
  • November 13, 2011
    Should be Credit is Power.
  • November 13, 2011
    Loaner Power, in my opinion. Or Loan Power. Do a separate one about debt is power, as that is more common - the loanee having power because they're worth more alive than dead.
  • November 13, 2011
    • Luzhin in Crime And Punishment thinks this way towards Dunia and her mother. It doesn't really work out, though...
  • November 13, 2011
    • A huge part of G Senjou No Maou is the protagonist being forced to be the step-son of a Yakuza tyrant after his family failed to pay a debt from the Yakuza's loan sharks. Most of the protagonist's motivation is to clear off that debt. This gets resolved in two different ways in two different routes.
  • November 13, 2011
    The Camarilla's system of Prestation in Vampire The Masquerade runs on this, but with favors instead of money.

    That said, how about The Power Of Debt?
  • November 13, 2011
    • This is one of the reasons The Fair Folk are funny about being thanked. Thanking someone acknowledges an indebtedness.
  • November 14, 2011
    • Scrooge McDuck has several times used Donald's debts to force him into an adventure.
  • November 14, 2011
    Pierce on Community takes over Annie's anti-drug play (to its detriment) after he pays her rent.
  • November 14, 2011
    In The Simpsons Homer has to borrow money from his evil sisters-in-law Patty & Selma, who proceed to make is life miserable because he owes them. But maybe that doesn't count - because it's not so much the "owing" part as the "not telling Marge" part that makes them have power over him. Once Marge finds out he stops being even pretend-nice to P&S.
  • November 14, 2011
    This is the "modern" (in the time line of the books. In "ancient" times it was military force) power of the city-state of Ankh-Morpork in Discworld. Everyone owes them money.