Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Hammer of Debt

From another great post by Golem XIV:
Debt is the hammer of our age. Its original purpose was to accelerate growth. Which it does. But like many such accelerants, like steroids or speed, it has disastrous side effects which are never slow to manifest. In the case of debt the problems arise from a basic misunderstanding of what debt does. It is often suggested that debt increases growth. It does not. It hastens it. You can save up what it will cost you to build a new factory or you can borrow and build the factory sooner. The debt allows you to start growing sooner. But at the cost of siphoning away a little of the growth to pay the interest on the debt. So actually debt decreases your growth by the interest you pay on your debt. And that is the kernel of the disaster.

... At this moment many of us can clearly see the hammer of debt is now no longer a wonder tool nor the answer to our present predicament. Growth and the debt that accelerated it were inventions of the world of steam and then oil and all the technologies of petrochemistry, electricity and computation. It was the wonder tool of the brief moment when we were still small in number and the world was still big. Today we are very many and the world relative to our powers of consumption and destruction is small and shrinking.

... We are being bludgeoned with debts and the austerity deemed necessary to pay for them. The Irish have just this evening been told they must suffer yet another two billion euros in austerity cuts to education and health. Yet the bail out of their worthless banks remains firm and will increase. In March the Irish state will still run out of money and more austerity will be called for while their banks will ‘require’ yet more ‘aid’ and ‘support.’

1 comment:

  1. I am in agreement that there is too much debt, but there is in this piece too much negativity about debt.

    It is simplistic to suggest that debt merely accelerates growth. Nor is it accurate to state, as a general proposition, that growth is *decreased* by the interest cost of debt.


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