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Jane Bryant Quinn turned a few heads back in January when she wrote this column, “The Case For Walking Away,” in Newsweek:

In January, we’re supposed to sit down and organize our personal finances. This year I’ll risk my good-girl reputation with a subversive idea: go bankrupt in 2009. If you’re reaching the end of your rope, don’t try to hold on. Save what you can.

It’s painful and humiliating even to consider bankruptcy, let alone join that crowd in the courthouse corridor, waiting for your name to be called. Normally I’d say suck it up, cut spending and repay your consumer debt. But that’s not always possible, especially with an economic tsunami rolling over your home, job and health insurance.

Most families, honorable to the end, struggle longer than they should, says Katie Porter , a law professor at the University of Iowa. By the time they give in, they’ve lost assets they could have used to start over again. That defeats the point of bankruptcy—to stop the self-blame and hopelessness that goes with bad luck and bad bills, and give yourself a second chance.