"The Case Against Government Debt - PERIOD"

Tyler Durden's picture

The most exciting episode of the neverending (and always distracting from far more important matters) political soap opera is without doubt the ongoing debate over the debt ceiling (which may legally be breached as soon as the week of May 1). For what it's worth, this is a complete sideshow as i) the ceiling will be raised, ii) both parties will blame each other for this outcome while shaking hands behind the scenes in expectation of more "gifts" from Wall Street and iii) the world will realize just how broke America is now that its debt ceiling, which we believe will be raised by just over $2 trillion to last the country until after the next presidential election, will for the first time ever be greater than its GDP, an event that has never before occurred. And so the distraction will shift to another even more meaningless debate. In the meantime, few ask themselves the key question: why is there government debt? In that regard, many have made the point against government debt, but few have done so as successfully and as succinctly as Bill Buckler does in his latest issue of the Privateer. In the below segment, Buckler does the definitive and most commonsensical reduction of the "government debt" issue and why what America is doing is nothing short of allowing itself to be hijacked on the road to a dictatorship.

The Case Against Government Debt - PERIOD:

A debt is an unfinished TRANSACTION. It is an agreement voluntarily entered into by BOTH lender and borrower to exchange present goods for future goods. Any economic transaction presupposes the existence of the goods being exchanged. If no goods exist, no transaction can take place.

In the marketplace, a loan is successful for the lender if and when the terms of the loan are met in full by the borrower. It is successful for the borrower if and when he can fulfill the terms and stand with capital  left over afterwards. If the terms of the loan are not fulfilled, both lender and borrower lose. The lender loses part or perhaps all of what was lent. The borrower may end up in jail. At the very least, he will findit more difficult or impossible to borrow in future.

In the “private” world of the marketplace, the lender has no power to create what is lent out of thin air and the borrower has no power to create the means of “payment” using the same method. The goods or money must first be created or earned and then SAVED. The means of paying back the loan must be acquired the same way. In all cases of MARKET lending, force cannot enter the picture. There is no way to force anyone to accept a “legal tender” which settles “all debts public and private”.

A government produces NOTHING. Since it produces nothing, it has no ECONOMIC means of servicing or repaying any debt obligations it may take on. Its means are strictly “political”. The only way a government can service and repay ANY level of debt it takes on is to extract the means from those who do produce wealth. Those who rely on the “full faith and credit” of government are relying on the exercise of naked political POWER. They are relying on the government to extract the means of payment from its citizens - or - to manipulate the terms of the loan (usually by manipulating interest rates) - or - to depreciate the purchasing power of the “legal tender” to make “payment” possible. In reality, government “creditors” are relying upon all three methods. The key to any government’s power is its ability to consume more than it extracts in taxes and charges. Until that power is curbed, no solution to the global financial crisis is possible. Until it is abolished, no return to genuine political freedom is possible.

We hope that more Americans realize that this is the key, and only, issue. Not whether Geithner can issue another $35 billion in 3 Year notes all of which will ultimately end up going to pad the uber rich's pocket even more. Not even whether America has a AAA or DD rating. It is whether we are willing to give up, day by day, the key freedom that once upon a time made America the great countries that future generations will only read about in history books.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
vast-dom's picture

this our government produces WASTE. 

a government must produce efficient REGULATIONS (for big biz and Fed).

Sudden Debt's picture

only in the movies...



Tail Dogging The Wag's picture

"Investors need to diversify, they need to own some real estate, they need to own some farmland, they need to own some equities, some cash, and some precious metals..."   Marc Faber —Investment analyst

Got real estate and farmland outside your home country yet?


D1eeeeeNAHHHHH's picture

Great summary of what needs to happen Tyler.  Nice work once again!

Dr_Dazed's picture

Come on guys - the Government produces nothing?  How about the legitimate national security role?  How about the enforcement of the rule of law (well, we have some current problems there)?  This argument is silly beyond belief.  Third grade philosophy.


Junk away.

MrPalladium's picture

Dazed you are!!

Legitimate national defense and enforcing the law are social costs. They do not produce wealth, although they are necessary to foster the production of wealth in transactions between strangers in nations encompassing more than one tribe or ethnic group.

Government produces nothing. A legitimate government seeks ways to minimize the costs of its legitmate functions.

Democratic governments always and everwhere end up maximizing costs by undertaking illegitimate functions, principally buying votes under the guise of providing services or relieving distress and poverty, or as Joseph Tainter would say in "The Collapse of Complex Societies," legitimization expenditures.

Collapse to a lower order of complexity and cost always involves the dismantling of democracy and the substitution of a much less expensive form of government legitimized by crisis and collapse.

Dr_Dazed's picture

I beg to differ still.  Few if any "things" are purely physical "goods" or "services".  While the balance between these components, along with tangibility and intangibility components, better define the "products" subject to "exchange" as put forward in the initial post.  You state that, for example, defense is a "social cost" I fail to see how you can impute a cost when nothing is gained in the exchange i.e. security, a "product" probably worth paying for.  Just because you choose to define security as a "cost" does not make the production of the good or service illegitimate.

I haven't read Mr. Tainter and doubt I will alas.  Most of the political / sociological theorists don't hold my interest.  Specifically I have read most of the "social economists" and a lot of complexity theorists (Durham, Lumsden and Willson, Baum and Singh, Casti and Karlqvist and so on) and I find the theorists like Jared Diamond to be relatively shallow and not worth the trouble.


Tidewater's picture

Not sure what "third grade philosophy" is, but here's some elementary-school civics: Neither the military nor the police is the government in America.

Your broader point seems to be that government has a role. Of course it does.

But you don't need "complexity theorists" to get at the basic point here: Government's role in this country is not to consume the society, including through the issuance of a crippling debt burden. (Or the issuance of regulations that encroach upon basic, and protected, civil activity, for example.)

The article's interesting take was to frame it in the context of political forces unchecked by market forces. A debt-financed take-under.

FrankDrakman's picture

You are both correct, in varying degrees. Yes, the police/army is NOT "the government"; they are however "arms" of the government. (Pun intended) So are the courts, the legislatures, etc. These functions of government create a framework where people and business can (theoretically) thrive. If this is not a "real product", then what exactly do psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists produce?

The best example I can think of is the Philippines. I've visited there many times. The country is exceptionally fertile, the people are decent and hardworking, and most speak passable English. You'd think (especially with all their ties to the US) that they would have booming economy.

But they don't, and the single most important reason is there is no constant rule of law in the country. Corruption is rife from the smallest barrio to the Senate, and as soon as someone gets a little something, there's no end of "government" crooks (along with assorted real ones) trying to get their mitts on it.

In English North America, I'm pretty sure I can start a business without having to pay off six government officials, the police chief, and the local army commander, failing which my children might be kidnapped or my business burned down - I saw both happen in the Phils. (I haven't tried to start a business in New Orleans, though..)

However, I have some sympathy for the article's thrust, which is the reckless spending and borrowing by the federal government is going to end the US as we know it, one way or another.


trav7777's picture

this is the rule in most places, and why the western white "rule of law" is so exceptional.

Corruption, however, is infecting everywhere.  I was talking to a belgian businessman in serbia whose problem to get some business running was to "find the guy whose hands I need to put the $400,000 into"

Corruption like this leads to and persists dark ages

riphowardkatz's picture

Is national defense consumption or production? Since my public education included no philosophy I need your help.

rwe2late's picture


You are 100% correct.

The oft-repeated contention that  "government produces NOTHING" is patently false.

It is ridiculous to claim that alleged private workers doing the same tasks as government workers are "producing", but government workers would not be.

Thus, public teachers, etc. are not "producing", but private workers doing the same jobs would be..

Thus, the Army Corps of Engineers building a dam, or city workers repairing a street etc, are supposedly not producing, but private workers would be.

Thus Goldman Sachs workers "produce" because they are "private", but government lawyers, accountants, and regulators supposedly by definition do not simply because they are "public".

All too many are misled by a false, but popularly portrayed, rigid economic dichotomy of "public' and "private". The marketplace, the rules of commerce, liability, property, ownership, etc. are defined by societal agreement or acceptance, i.e. "government".  

Those societal rules for the economy may be established and enforced by a brigand and mafia-run government, or presumably by a government more benevolent and democratic in nature.

Those who merely see the problem as "government" creating the mafia, but not the mafioso creating "government", fail to comprehend the dialectical relationship between the two.

redpill's picture

After you're done reading Privateer, I recommend picking up a copy of Mutineer :) 


cossack55's picture

WTF? No articles about MD 20/20.

hedgeless_horseman's picture

Want to know why?  Read The Creature From Jekyll Island.

forexskin's picture


i bought a case and passed them out 3 years ago. only one who didn't get it is my lawyer who majored in economics before law school - called it tinfoil hat stuff. (kinda nice as a litmus test)

buy loads, and hand them out.

TomGa's picture

Video online (at least until April 29th when GoogleVideos shuts down):

The Birth of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank - How usury destroyed America


"Based on Mr. Griffin's book of the same title [The Creature from Jekyll Island], this address will shatter your old ideas about money and change the way you view the world. 1998 lecture."

tiger7905's picture

Interesting clip, thanks.

Latest from Martin Armstrong, covers QE2 and how gold will move up in the next wave.


lolmao500's picture

Who cares about the debt ceiling? The dollar is about to go supernova!


Central bank adviser says yuan appreciation necessary


Yuan revaluation bitchez!

Tyler Durden's picture

"Gradual". The CNY fixing is at a record as is. A 10% move will wreak havoc on China's export economy, where margins already are razor thin.

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

My guess as well.  A 10% jump in price of Chinese bearings would kill that business.  

"Price, Nothing Else".

1fortheroad's picture

From another poster.

Rumor: China To Revalue Yuan 10% This Weekend?



bushboy's picture

This would be very bearish for the AUD I imagine.

Sudden Debt's picture

And because that's what Ben wanted, we are pretty sure it won't cause extra inflation...

so debt ceiling increase...

rate increase?...

Yuan rise...




css1971's picture

I's been moving about ~4%pa, giving a 17 year half period. Maybe they ment to allow it to float by 10%, giving a 7 year period. It accelerated mid March.



Just a thought. Have we found QE3?

This may have been what QE2 was about. Break the peg. Course the stagflation would be horrible for a while. Even higher commodity prices, the chinese getting rid of their treasuries as they devalue and buying stuff with their dollars. Which means higher coupons.

Chinese products become more expensive and jobs start being created... Back in America? Really? Not Vietnam or elsewhere?


Lord Welligton's picture

If that is real then silver/gold, indeed all commodities should rise against the dollar. No?

Sudden Debt's picture

First against the dollar because the dollar will break

Than Chinese investors will flee into commodities because the Yuan will go back down because their reserves would go down.




css1971's picture

They won't have to flee. A stronger Renminbi will allow the Chinese to bid commodities (everything) substantially higher in dollar terms.


$150 oil here we come.

See all that inflation America hasn't had over the last decade or two? It's on it's way.

cossack55's picture

I like it. Short, succinct, accurate and no charts or graphs. 

Cyan Lite's picture

Actually, the gov't does a pretty nice job of creating wealth.  The Federal Reserve has created trillions in wealth for certain bankers.

Dr. No's picture

The FED is a private entity.  Therefore the argument holds.

NotApplicable's picture

And even it doesn't create wealth, it creates dollars that are used to transfer/consume wealth.

css1971's picture

the gov't does a pretty nice job of creating wealth

ITYM "moving wealth"

Government is a service. It provides some useful services in a way that others can't or won't. But I don't see why it would need to run up a national debt. A national debt, certainly a permanent one is just cowardice and expediency on the part of the politicians.

Dr. No's picture

The borrower may end up in jail

In the absence of fruad, I dont think this is true.  Debter prisions, once all the rage, have gone away.  I believe a contract is civil law and not criminal.  That being said, there are lots of people sitting in jail for failing to pay their government debt (taxes).  Though I guess taxes are not a contract per se since you do not enter willfully.

cossack55's picture

"I like the way you think"

Sam Kinison

Dr. No's picture

Excellent article.  It would seem the golden rule is the only law still alive and well.

Chuck Bone's picture

Try student loans. Can't discharge them through bankruptcy, so the state mandates you pay. If you can't do so without maintaining a minimum standard of living, they still will make you pay some sort of payment a month? If you decide not to pay even the minimum or what a court mandates, you can be subject to all sorts of penalties. Tax refunds can be withheld, you can lose social security payments, you can be turned over to a collection agency and sued, your wages garnished.  The government may not license you if you are a doctor or lawyer, and in that regard they will imprison you for disobeying.

Debtors prison is alive and well, and is behind an enormous debt bubble that has yet to pop.

lolmao500's picture

What about taking a small job... then take a home loan... then buy a small house with it... then use the surplus to pay your student loan and then default?

MachoMan's picture

You need to look at the laws regarding forebearance...  hell, doctors get a fucking discharge of student loans...  you need to read the fine print, not the headlines.

MachoMan's picture

Even if you fail to pay the proper amount of income taxes, you'll still likely stay out of prison...  the issue is largely for people who refuse to file...  the willful avoiders...  and generally, this is reserved for the bigger $ evaders.  [and by bigger I mean the middle of the road as far as evaders go, but in the 5 figures at least range...  and typically only for those folks who can't foot the bill].

nah's picture



we cant tax the rich people enough to pay off americas debt... they created to many poor worthless assholes to blame it on that vote for politicians who constantly subsidize rich peoples 'opinions'

Segestan's picture

Misses the whole point of government. The ideas of Government took literally centuries to evolve, government, that is at least government 'by the people for the people' is to safe guard the rights of the individual and one of those rights is to be able to exchange goods and services for pay be that gold or fiat. It wasn't so many centuries ago only a few had those rights and everyone else was a serf. Sure we have  huge waste but we have huge corruption of government.Take away the corruption and political, religious hacks and everything with government will work as intended.

 If persons like the author ever succeed in such naive ideas , we will return to the age of brute power/force/plunder over human rights.

thedrickster's picture

My thoughts on democracy, a collective force of brute power & plunder, the God That Failed:


Furthermore, when in recent history has this government done anything even resembling the safeguard of natural rights?

NotApplicable's picture

The only form of government that has the capacity, let alone the ability to protect the rights of the individual, is self-government. Which is why it was the basis of the experiment known as the US republic.

Anything else is just a madman with a gun.

Segestan's picture

Maybe... but the point is Government is a means for the citizens to gain equality under law.