I have been debating in my mind for quite sometime now whether those in debt like I am have the right to hold forth on any subject. Am I allowed to express any opinion at all despite my indebtedness? I am conflicted about the answer.
I say conflicted because a part of the reason why I get paid is to comment, opine and observe and that payment in turn helps (at least in theory) pay down some of my debts. Perhaps to that extent, one can make an exception.
That said, more often than not as a commentator one is put in the position of handing down pronouncements and value judgments about any number of subjects, including about the economy. That’s where my main dilemma comes in.
If I have handled my finances so badly as to get into debt, does it really behoove me to pass judgments about others? I am equally conflicted here because economies around the world, including America and India, are so debt-driven. These are societies in considerable debt themselves. If America and India were a person who ran up the kind of debt that these two have done, their assets would been repossessed a long time ago. So perhaps to that extent one can make another exception.
That brings me to the broader question whether those who have not been able to lead a life free of debt should feel reassured enough to opine about other matters, including socio-cultural and political issues? I am conflicted here as well because there are pretty good chances that those people who form and shape these issues are also in some kind of debt themselves.
I do not want enter into heavy subjects such as debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio but that is regarded as one definite indicator of the health of any economy. The lower this ratio the better it is considered. Incidentally, G20, which is a group of the world’s 20 biggest economies, have been debating ways to reduce this ratio to under 90 percent. In the United States it is above 100 percent. In Japan it is 200 percent even as the Bank of Japan will flood $1.4 trillion in what is seen as the world’s most vigorous monetary stimulus. That can be done only by printing more money. Can an individual create such stimulus by printing more money? You know the answer to that.
According to an ING study on global debt quoted by Sudeep Reddy in the Wall Street Journal on May 11, 2013, “The total indebtedness of the world, including all parts of the public and private sectors, amounting to 313% of global gross domestic product.” I presume this includes my own indebtedness.
The report also said that debt in developed economies was $157 trillion, or 376% of GDP, while in emerging markets debt totaled $66.3 trillion at the end 2012, or 224% of GDP. Not that I understand much of these figures but it would be elementary to think that it is not good to have debt that is in excess of 300 percent or 200 percent of GDP. As I said before if as an individual my debt to GDP ratio was even one fourth of this I would have been dispossessed of all assets. That may happen soon for all you know. It is because entire countries and their potentials are leveraged in these calculations people do not panic at these numbers. A similar yardstick is never applied to individuals.
Per-capita indebtedness in the US is said to be $176,833. It is that figure that should perhaps help me resolve my conflict about whether those in debt have the moral foundation to express any opinion. However, as I said I do opining, commenting and observing for a living which in turn creates revenues which in turn, hopefully, pays down my debt. So there, I think I would have been wrong to think that an individual in debt has no business expressing opinions. At least for now, this blog remains, until such time as Comcast, the provider of my internet service, and City of Naperville, the provider of my water and electricity, finally decide that my debt to individual GDP is too out of sync to continue my utilities. My friend Chintan Oza is perhaps smiling knowingly at this time.