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Richard Salsman: The Limits of Public Debt

Government borrowing is at record levels, by some measures, and is projected to climb still higher in the coming decade. Are there “tipping points” we should worry about? If so, what happens after that?

Why do governments borrow in the first place? Why do they sometimes over-borrow? Why (and how) do they sometimes default? Are democracies more prone to over-borrowing than other regime types? Does excessive public borrowing commit intergenerational injustice?

While answering these questions and illustrating public debt history in multi-century charts, this talk reveals what leading political economists – from Smith in the 18th century to Krugman in the 21st century – have said about public debt. Theorists are classified as pessimists, optimists, and realists. The talk reveals which factors best distinguish these views, which view dominates today’s public debt debate, and why it matters.

Monday, November 13, 2017 at 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Farrell Hall, Broyhill Auditorium (A31) 1834 Wake Forest Rd, Winston-Salem, NC

Event Type



Academics, Economics, School of Business, Academic Centers / Institutes, BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism

Target Audience

Faculty, General Public, Staff, Students

Contact name

Matthew Phillips

Contact email

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