Saturday, May 23, 2009

Britain's Debt Load

Britain's debt outlook gets bleaker.

The article notes that one-time, exogenous debt-affecting events (this recession, for example) don't affect outlook for a country nearly as much as constant evolution of debt. I think this is correct, in theory... in practice, it becomes much more difficult to ascertain. It's the "unreliable friend" scenario - a friend who cancels once may have a good reason, a friend who cancels all the time is flaky and unreliable, even if each time seems like it's a reasonable "exogenous" event. A good fiscal policy and financial system shouldn't have very many large debt-affecting events. Wars and recessions happen, for sure, but without a plan for paying back the money, it still doesn't justify spending.

That, I suppose, is my biggest objection to the Obama budget. It defers pain in order to reengineer American social norms towards greater government management of America. Even if you believe that greater government management of America is a good thing (which I do NOT at all - I think it's a pretty fast way to a ruined country), doing that at the expense of government management of government is a very dangerous precedent.

By the way, a decrease in the British debt rating would be very, very bad for Britain... it would increase the interest rate Britain had to pay on its bonds, which would cause greater deficits, and has the potential to spiral out of control without much better fiscal management. The US can face the same problem... and if China stops buying our bonds, it would happen quickly. As long as China's growing fast, they should keep buying our bonds because it helps them develop. As soon as Chinese growth slows, inflation accelerates, or (most dangerously), they actually reach capacity in terms of their utilization of their substantial labor supply, the United States is in a world of trouble.

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