Friday, November 07, 2014

In 2014, countries are still paying off debt from World War One

This is an article from Quartz.

I love the poppy pictures for the 100th anniversary of the war (there's one in this article).  I have some Facebook friends over there right now and they've been posting pictures.  I remember the poppies when I was there back in, um, November 2008?  Nope, 2007.  I guess that's why I have a blog, so I don't have to remember years.  I knew the specific month and date, but not the year.  That strikes me as serious old guy behavior.

I find this absolutely amazing. 300 year old debt!  It's closer to the early modern fiscal prudence of Henry VII (around 1500) - you can read about his extraordinary revenue and ordinary revenue practices at those links - than it is to the present.
"Incredibly, because the 4% Consuls were used to refinance even older debt, some of the debt being repaid in early 2015 goes as far back as the 18th century. “In 1853, then-chancellor Gladstone consolidated, among other things, the capital stock of the South Sea Company originating in 1711, which had collapsed in the infamous South Sea Bubble financial crisis of 1720,” the UK Treasury said. And Chancellor George Goschen converted bonds first issued in 1752 and subsequently used them to finance the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars, as well as the Slavery Abolition Act of 1835."

And the article puts the context of Germany's debt in terms of 96,000 tons of gold.  That's a big pile. I'm having trouble imagining it, just like I had trouble imagining XKCD telling me a supernova was magnitudes larger than setting off an atomic bomb on my eyeball.  I poked around on the internet, and I can't find anything quickly that weights 96,000 tons, but...The George W. Bush Nimitz Class Carrier weight 102,000 tons, and the Enterprise 100,000.  Ignoring any long/short/metric/English conversions and just deciding close enough counts in horseshoes, atom bombs/supernovas, and aircraft carriers, that means a Nimitz-class ACC made out of solid gold.  It would be smaller, because steel is about atomic mass 50 (that's a pure guess based on the atomic mass of iron and then just deciding all those trace strengthening elements take it down 10%) and gold is 196, so it would be roughly a 1/4 scale sold gold air craft carrier.  Probably on the bottom of the ocean.  My guess is that it wouldn't float.  And now I've realized I have my very own question for What If!

1 comment:

Scooter said...

Question submitted to What If on 11/10/14.