The book’s theme is an elaboration and refinement of the early-twentieth century orientation toward public debt that Antonio de Viti de Marco set forth. As the book’s title asserts, public debt is a misnomer for a democratic scheme of political economy. To declare a democratic polity to be indebted is akin to observing a grin without a cat, to recall Dennis Robertson’s view of Keynes’s liquidity preference theory. While the entire book develops this claim, this chapter explains how standard macro theories of various types are more myth than reality, and with the mythology obscuring the realities of the domination-subordination relationships that suffuse democratic regimes.
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An Illusion of Democratic Political Economy
Giuseppe Eusepi and Richard E. Wagner
Richard M. Salsman
Not until the Enlightenment and the financial revolution in the eighteenth century did sovereigns borrow publicly, regularly, and responsibly. Constitutionalism, the rule of law, ethical acceptance of lending, and more respect for sanctity of contract increased creditors’ willingness to lend. Three centuries of data show that public leverage – the ratio of public debt to GDP – was highest at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and World War II. Public leverage since 1980 has increased steadily for many sovereigns, but for most of them leverage is still far below prior peaks. The multi-decade rise in public leverage reflects burgeoning welfare states but also coincides with an anomalous decline in public borrowing costs, due mainly to repressive central bank policies.