The world owes $57 trillion. Who the F*** to? Mars? Jupiter?

If we add up the national debts of all the worlds’ countries, subtracting any claimed surpluses, it reportedly comes to about $57 trillion. the world owes $57 trillion.

So who the f*** do we owe it all to? Mars, Jupiter ? Should we start worrying that we have to keep our extra galactic creditors happy otherwise they are going to send in the bailiffs and repossess our planet?

Edit: As of 18/5/2014 the figure has risen to over $58 trillion. Maybe Venus has started to get in on the act too 🙂

Edit: See the answer from Mike Norman (third comment down) if you’re still wondering why the National Debts of all countries don’t net to zero.

9 responses to “The world owes $57 trillion. Who the F*** to? Mars? Jupiter?

  1. If everyone was an equal-sized debtor for their share of that $ 57 trillion , but the creditors are all in the top .001% of global income share , would that create a problem ?

    Add in another 150-200 $trillion of private debt , similarly distributed as to debtor/creditor. Would that make it a big enough problem to worry about ?

    • Marko, I can’t see there being any problems other than a sudden end to the world and even if that was to occur sometime within the next few hundred thousands years? I can’t see people worrying about the size of IOU’S when their earthly world is coming to an end.

  2. Marko,

    The creditors are all of us who have put any money in the bank or have any assets.

    Mike Norman has given a good answer to the question:

    “These morons apparently don’t realize that all money is created by crediting and debiting accounts. Money functions as a unit of account, medium of exchange, store of value, and record of debt. Every debt has a corresponding credit denominated the unit of account of that jurisdiction, so that all debt as someone’s liability is someone else’s asset, which nets to zero.

    Since money is not only someone’s debt (a payable) but also someone else’s credit (a receivable), it is just as true to say that the world owns over 57 trillion in financial assets expressed in USD, as it is to say that the world owes 57 million in financial liabilities. Doh.

    If there were no credit-debt relationships, that is, if all financial liabilities were extinguished, then there would be no money, and exchange of goods and services would be reduced to barter.”

  3. My question is more of an attempt to probe the limits of MMT by posing a hypothetical , one that’s extreme in the inequality it reflects but also one that could become real if we continue on the path we’ve been on.

    The tautology of assets=liabilities isn’t hard to grasp or accept , but one is left with the feeling of “so what?”. If a very tiny slice of the population owns nearly all the assets , and gets nearly all the income , you’ll have a hard time convincing any thinking person – who’s not a member of that tiny slice – that debt of any kind is a good thing.

    • Apple have a reported cash pile of $147 billion. Presumably they don’t want to risk using that money developing other products at present so have taken the no-risk option of putting their money into US$ treasury securities either directly or by putting their money into a commercial bank which has itself bought those securities. Some of the money may be spread around in other currencies, some may be in the form of UK government securities denominated in ÂŁ.

      So what can governments do? All they can do is recycle that money into their economies by deficit spending. So, effectively they get to spend Apple’s money in just the same way as they would have done had it been taxed away from them. They need to keep that $147 billion moving to keep their economies going. If they don’t, the recession will be even deeper than it is.

      If, at some time in the future, Apple decide they want to use that $147 billion developing new products they’ll cash in their Treasury securities and use it. When they do, it will have a stimulatory effect on which ever economy it is spent in and therefore there will be less need for Governments to deficit spend.

      Debt is much more of a worry to those who have lent out their cash than it is for those who end up using it. There is always a trade-off between inflation and unemployment levels. You and I would tolerate 3% inflation and having a job, if the alternative was 0% inflation and no job. Apple wouldn’t see it like that though. If they have $147 billion tied up in securities, which don’t pay much interest, they’d prefer us to be unemployed and have 0% inflation.

      That is why all the debt propaganda is directed the way it is of course.

  4. Pingback: Links 3/11/14 | Mike the Mad Biologist

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  6. The problem we have with this is most people assume that all these trillions fall into a black hole and disappear forever….or something….

    I do think an introductory course of double entry bookkeeping should be mandatory for everyone on the planet….that way we could pound into their little brains that every deficit has a corresponding and equal credit….I.e. Every dollar of government spending is someone’s income…..

    Molon labe

  7. Stephen Ferguson


    No doubt you heard about this week’s revelation from the McKinsey and Global Institute study that planet Earth’s grand total of government + private debt = $199 trillion.

    Of course, putting aside the awkward fact that adding the two is nonsensical – given that government ‘debt’ is nothing more than a number (that exists outside system, not inside) – you do have to wonder just how bright the study authors are. And for that matter the mass media who reported their findings.

    Didn’t any of them realize that a non-zero answer MUST imply there REALLY IS extraterrestrial life and not only that they are bankers! Someone needs to get on the phone to NASA now!

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