TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Who are all the countries in the world in debt to?

I hear everywhere how Greece is in debt, France is in debt, the UK is in debt, Poland is in debt ....
I hear that part of these debts are so called internal debts i.g. governments owe money to their respective citizens, which boils down to us being in debt to ... ourselves. This concept in itself does not boggle my mind as much as the fact that anyone in their right mind is willing to buy it.
Part of these debts are so called external debts. Now, this can basically make sense only can anyone explain to me where does the buck stop i.e. who is the ultimate source of all that enormous credit? Since I am a kind of a redneck, can someone explain this in very simple terms steering clear of the language of economics which of course was developed for anything but explaining things?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Feb 12 2013: I might misunderstand your question.

    As I understand government bonds, when a person buys a government bond, that is a "loan" to the government in the sense that if you hold it for its term and then cash it in, the unit of government is obligated to pay back the face value on the bond.

    When a country, like the US, owes money to another country, right now it might be China who has made the loan. ($1.2 trillion in US debt is held by China).
    Is that what you were asking?
    • Feb 13 2013: Yes and no. Does it not bother you that your government borrows money from you. IMO governments only dispose of your (and other citizens') money. Therefore when you lend money to your government you as good as lend it to yourself. Does this make sense? Lending or borrowing anything to/from oneself? I repeat, government's money is YOUR money. When the government pays interest on loans which it received from you, where is the money to pay this interest coming from? My guess is from your very own pocket!

      BTW are you the type of person who likes to live on borrowed money? If you are not (as I am not) are you not enraged (as I am) that your government makes you effectively live on borrowed money (borrowed as per your explanation from China)?
      • thumb
        Feb 13 2013: Many know more about this than I do, but you do not have to buy government bonds. Only people who want to buy them do so.

        I personally do not like to owe money. But many people borrow money to buy a home. The price of the house needs to be paid up front though the family will use it over time and is best able to pay for it over time. Those who do not like to carry mortgage debt can either pay up front, if they have the cash available to do that, or rent. As you say, many homeowners borrow for that investment and pay it off over thirty years.

        Businesses also often borrow money as a matter of course to invest in something that pays off in the future.

        So borrowing is common in the private sector as well and is often considered good strategy.
        • Feb 14 2013: Quite right. Borrowing is a good strategy on condition that it is an investment i.e. the borrowed money is used to buy tangible assets like means of production or a house in which you and your family is going to live for many years to come and untill well after such time when the loan will have been paid back. Borrowing is NOT a good strategy when the borrowed money is just used to temporarily improve the standard of life as if there was no tomorrow. I fear it is the latter kind of borrowing that my country, Poland, is helping itself to. I also view this strategy as some kind of a trap. Once the time to pay it all back comes and days of grace are over, the goverment will be forced to raise taxes and bills untill more and more citizens are no longer able to afford to pay. People will then be evicted from their homes and land and will become tenants and slaves in the country which they once called their own while that country will be owned by whoever it is that lent us money in the first place. Hence in my view borrowing money by governments (without asking the consent of the nations which those governments were elected to represent) is a CRIME. It makes my hair stand on end when I realize that each day gets me ever deeper in debt to somebody I do not even know, when I have always made sure that I have never owed money to anybody and never have lived beyond my means.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.