Richard Salsman: The Limits of Public Debt

November 13, 2017 | 4:00–5:00 PM | Broyhill Auditorium (Farrell A31), 1834 Wake Forest Rd, Winston-Salem NC

Co-sponsored with the Wake Forest Department of Economics

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.

Richard Salsman, PhD, is an assistant professor in the philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) program at Duke University and a core faculty member of the political economy program there. He received his B.A. in Government and Economics from Bowdoin College (1981), his M.A. in Economics from New York University (1988), and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke (2012). Prior to entering academia, he was a banker in New York City (the Bank of New York and Citibank) and founder and president of InterMarket Forecasting, Inc.

Dr. Salsman is the author of two books—Breaking the Banks: Central Banking Problems and Free Banking Solutions and Gold and Liberty—in addition to scholarly journal articles and dozens of essays on political economy for Forbes. His most recent book, The Political Economy of Public Debt: Three Centuries of Theory and Evidence, was published by Elgar in February 2017.