June 8, 2011

A World of Debt

I have collected few interesting graphs on the debt crisis unfolding.This New York Times graphic did an excellent job of summing everything up:
(Source - click to view larger graphic at source)

If everybody owes everybody else, then kicking the can down the road only works if there's more wealth, more growth, and sufficient economic activity down that road to service the past debts.
It means that unless recovery and substantial growth are going to manifest soon we are going one bailout after the other to plunge the economy in a vicious death spiral.

When all of the most indebted countries are stacked up, we see that all but Russia carry a total indebtedness greater than 100% of GDP and that nine are carrying debt levels higher than any that have ever been repaid historically.


Note: 260% debt-to-GDP is the all time record for repayment, accomplished by England between 1815 and 1900, but required both massive cuts in spending and an industrial revolution.

Of course, debt is only one component of the story; there are also liabilities to consider.  The above chart merely graphs the legally defined debts involved.  If we bother to add back in the liability components, which are pensions, social security and government medical plans, the predicament is seen to be three to six times larger:

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