I've seen this mentioned a few times, but I've only just gotten around to checking out what it is, via Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing. It turns out, you can buy up outstanding debts -- this is what debt collectors do (I guess the idea is the original company figures they aren't getting paid, so they cut their losses selling the debt at a massive discount). Those debt collectors, in David Rees's words, "hound debtors to their grave trying to collect." The People's Bailout is a variety show that's taking place this November in New York, raising money from the Rolling Jubilee, buys debt just like debt collectors, for pennies on the dollar. That's it. The debt collectors have a second step, extracting the money from suffering people. The Rolling Jubilee just buys it up and abolishes it. The debt goes away, forever.
They explain in a youtube video:
It's my understanding that the economic system we work in requires ever-expanding debt -- money is made, loaned to the government at interest, the government loans it to the people at interest, and the people loan it to each other at interest, and to cover all that accruing interest, we have to print more money...
It seems to me like there has to be some point where we just accept that not all the debts are getting paid -- and this seems like an awesome way to do it. We can dial back the impact of debt on people's lives, and if we can bring down the costs that get those people into debt in the first place (cheaper education, available food, housing and healthcare, etc.) we can keep the civilization we seem all to want, without creating a self-destructing underclass (and, by extension, a self-destructing civilization.)
These people are on my list for potential future charity debt listings. I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.