Daily Archives: August 1, 2018

The Explicable Mystery of the National Debt


America’s current “national debt” is tallied to be $21.5 trillion. When politicians and economic pundits talk (worry, fret, wring their hands, gnash their teeth) about this “debt” they implicitly assume—along with their listeners, readers, and potential voters—that this fantastic sum will eventually have to be paid back. That’s what happens with debts, right? Someone calls them due! Everyone also assumes the American tax-payer will have to do the paying. (Quick calculation to save you the trouble: Each one of us is in hock for $65,950!)

Depending on which political football is being tossed around, this “national debt” is either a crisis that must be addressed first (before anything else can be paid for!) or it’s something we can simply ignore for the time being—until the promised “economic growth” comes along that will somehow enable the federal government to collect that extra $65K from each of us. So long as we promise that Yes! someday we’ll pay it off, we can feel okay about going one more day, or month, or year without even starting to do so. In the meantime, of course, the “national debt” somehow keeps growing! At least that must stop, we declare! Our government must stop borrowing even more!

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Mankiw Whiffs on “Learning the Right Lessons from the Financial Crisis”

By William K. Black
July 31, 2018     Bloomington, MN

I am writing a major article on myths about the causes of the financial crisis, so I read with special interest N. Gregory Mankiw’s column “Learning the Right Lessons From the Financial Crisis.”  (HT: DCJ.)  The context of Mankiw’s article, as he appropriately discloses, is to do a favor for a friend by plugging the friend’s new book in Mankiw’s column in the New York Times.  I have no criticism of that purpose and applaud him for alerting readers to it.  The problem is substance, both the book’s and his column.

Mankiw is the leading author of economic textbooks in the world, so his views and his ideology are enormously influential.  The first sentence of his book review asks the right question:  “What caused the financial crisis of 2008?”  The remarkable thing is that he never attempts to answer the question and does not explain how the book he is reviewing attempts to do so.

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