What hypothetical benefits and problems would a country have if it decided to have positive balance? That is, to have its debt much smaller than its assets. Similar to what Norway does.

And reverse, what would happen if Norway would decide to go full-USA and take loans untill the balance will reach 100% yearly gdp in debt, and then spend all this money on its industries, social programs.

Im mostly interested in comparing this two extremes, long term effects, over decades. I realise that any such massive change will cause short term disturbance. Mostly interested in cases where a country goes from 100% yearly gdp debt to 100% yearly gdp in assets, and the reverse, in a few decades, to be able to compare similar magnitude of change.

And in the very long term, would assets having country, outcompete the debt having countries? Would Norway as is slowly gain more and more capital and grow faster than USA, or would USA having money earlier invest it wisely and grow so fast that it would outpace the debt management? What conditions would change the outcome? What path is more stable against catastrophes? Does any path change how likely that a country would participate in a war?


1 Answer 1


Build a balance sheet:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

Assume a simplified government budget constraint:

Deficit Spending = New Money + New Debt - Taxes

Assume that spending is to accumulate assets on the balance sheet. So to accumulate assets without spending new money or new debt into an economy over a period the government must run a tax surplus. The government would accumulate equity claims instead of matching debt to assets with no change of equity.

Taxes that transfer money from non-government to government savings accounts kept on the books of the aggregate bank amount to a zero-sum transfer of savings from non-government to government. What public purpose is served if the government accumulates significant financial savings in the aggregate bank sector? The benefit from taxes or borrowing or money issue is the government spending and using assets wisely for public purposes. There is no benefit from government financial saving because society discounts nature at the interest rate and creates financial relations as we go along from past to present to future.

One famous case study for debt financed purchase of asset is the Louisiana purchase where USA bought large territory claimed by France:


Then the public benefit of debt or tax financed purchase could be debated in the political process whether one is a voter, citizen, or economist because no one had a definitive answer to the ethical question what is the public good and how should the government use finance to cause the public good?

However if the United States government issues debt just to accumulate a financial savings account, that is, a debt claim against some other non-government sector, then there could be adverse consequences which are associated with government corruption and bad public policies.

Currently in the United States the American families owe over $1 trillion in student loans which are financed by the issue of Treasury securities held as assets by some other non-government units. So the federal government acts like a bank or financial intermediary when it subsidizes the university system via direct federal loan policy in this way and the working class families with student debt may or may not be able to service and pay down debt via income flows in aggregate.

In terms of the financial float in a banking region the bankruptcy rate and net repayment of debt destroys financial assets (and liabilities) while the credit dealer systems generate new financial assets and matching liabilities in some other sector or unit. Funding government via taxes either enables the private credit systems to function better or may impair the function of the private systems depending on your theory for how financial systems operate in a case study. When the United States ran the so-called Clinton surplus there is a Congressional report studying the problems caused in the financial sectors if the persistent surplus retires the Treasury securities. The Treasury securities are the backbone of credit dealer markets in the global economy.

  • $\begingroup$ Its an interesting read, but it seems most of the answer is about short term effects. Norway does exist, so this case is possible. From your answer it seems like debt repayment is somehow bad. I guess its mostly to do with what is done with the equity after it. In case of Norway it is lended to other countries, so i do not offer to have no debt relationships.I do not offer to zero-out all debts. Just to change debt strategy (USA) vs equity strategy (Norway). This way liquidity, money mass, will stay the same, and effect isnt as bad as with zero debt (no debt to others or from others) $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2020 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ So the government is collecting taxes to accumulate equity claims against some other sectors of the economy. This could be a form of crowding out private sector activity according to some economic theories which is "bad" policy. However I am not claiming to know what is good or bad policy I am claiming that one can follow the money and transactions on balance sheets and one can debate what is or is not the public good or how to cause the public good using political-economic theories. If a tyrant taxes the non-government to accumulate wealth for a political regime that would be corruption. $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2020 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ since we likely wont be able to define public good, we can settle on something simpler, total wealth, and its accumulation. Will USA or Nowray accumulate wealth faster in the long term, 50 years+? $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2020 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ If the accumulation of wealth by the government is your definition of the public good then I question your standard of measurement in the ethical debate over what is the public good and how should society act to cause the public good. $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2020 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ Im not sure, but it seems you mean wealth accumulation by the government could be still bad for the people, for example in case of tyrany. If this is what you mean, i was hoping that long term will sort this out. Tyrannies are not stable on a scale of 50+ years while in competition with more free countries. Even if tyrant will get some profit initially, he will lose in the long run, due to competition. $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2020 at 16:32

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