Having a Good Time in Debt

To the dismay and displeasure of some friends, I consider myself an American. I am quite fond of this adopted citizenship although I am not proud of certain things the United States as a country does. That was why last week I deplored our national debt of 17 trillion dollars.

Having a Good Time in DebtCL of Canada wrote me and she said she didn’t understand why the US kept giving out foreign aid when it was awash in red ink itself. CL is a high-level banker, so she’s well versed in financial matters. She probably posed it to me as a rhetorical question. I am no expert on US foreign policy, but I think it is the misguided ego to play big brother, or the naïve desire to buy temporary alliance, or a combination of both that makes our federal government do it. I have this negative suspicion because my own government could never give its constituents a truly reasonable and satisfactory answer.

Then I was talking with another Canadian, ST, about the same subject. I complimented his country for not having this kind of problem because Canada was high on oil reserve and low on big brotherhood. ST surprised me and directed me to a website called www.debtclock.ca. I also looked up the data posted by the Economist, which is drastically higher than what is posted on “debtclock.” According to the Economist, Canada has a substantial national debt of 1.7 trillion US dollars. Divide that by its relatively low population of 35,000,000 people, each person’s share is US$47,000. Compare that to a US citizen’s share of $53,000. No wonder we are close neighbors.

That roused my interest. So I did a little googling on England. UK has a national debt of 2.7 trillion US dollars and a population of 64 million. So the per person share works out to be US$42,000. Again, compare that to a US citizen’s share of $53,000. If you are British, how would you feel? Camaraderie with the Canadians and Americans?

I looked a little more.

Australia has a population of 24,000,000 people and a national debt of US$400,000,000,000. Each citizen’s share is about US$16,000. That looks pretty “healthy” in the wake of the shock earlier by the US, Canada and UK.

Japan and China are this nation’s biggest creditors. How do they fare?

Japan owes a national debt of 12 trillion US dollars and its per person burden is a gargantuan US$97,000! No wonder we haven’t seen too many Japanese tourists at airports lately. China, on the other hand, is doing exceptionally well in these statistics. It has a national debt of 1.8 trillion US dollars and its per person share is only a bit more than a thousand dollars. That may be one reason why so many of them are buying high-end real estate overseas with bags of cash.

All my data were retrieved over the internet without proof of authenticity. So please take them with a grain of salt. (We all know how politicians like to massage figures to make nice their messages.) But one general pattern emerges – i.e., we as a species, regardless of nationality, love to have a good time on borrowed money. We must think our children, and their children will take care of our debt and themselves.

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2 thoughts on “Having a Good Time in Debt”

  1. This is very interesting. Thank you for your “research” effort and information. Although not official it still gives some good ideas about which of these countries are really rich!

  2. The data I collected for this article are all readily available on the Internet. I am not an economist by training, so I honestly don’t know how accurate the numbers are. I wrote this to share my concern that we are ruining the future for our children and their children by stacking up debts with no end in sight and leaving them behind as our legacy.

    One huge expense item for most so-called developed countries is the war budget — nicely labeled as the defense budget. If we could let our different governments know that we don’t agree with burning money on bombs, maybe we could all shrink our national debts a little. Maybe.

    Thank you, Mr. Hung, for writing!

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