Sovereign debt is not a risk-free asset

Article Highlights

  • In all cases, sovereign debt is not a risk-free asset.

    Tweet This

  • As Anatole Kaletsky wrote a generation ago: "For at least 500 years, governments and nations have defaulted."

    Tweet This

  • The notion that government debt is "risk-free" is a myth promoted by governments.

    Tweet This

Sir, Mario Blejer says: “In most cases, sovereign debt is not a risk-free asset.” This is an understatement. The correct statement is: “In all cases, sovereign debt is not a risk-free asset.” As Anatole Kaletsky wrote a generation ago: “For at least 500 years, governments and nations have regularly defaulted.”

The only question is what form the default may take: explicit default; or implicit default by inflation and currency depreciation, or by financial repression. Default, whether explicit or implicit, is always a risk with every government.

The notion that government debt is “risk-free” is a myth promoted by governments so they can get more money to spend, assisted by the financial regulatory arms of the governments. It has to be added that many economists are also complicit in this effort.

Alex J. Pollock, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, US

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Alex J.
Pollock

What's new on AEI

Defeating ISIS: AEI experts weigh-in before the president’s address on Wednesday
image Degrading, defeating, and destroying the Islamic State
image Wealth Building Home Loan: Building wealth through homeownership and retirement savings
image The $3 iPhone
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 15
    MON
  • 16
    TUE
  • 17
    WED
  • 18
    THU
  • 19
    FRI
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Constitution as political theory

Please join us for the third-annual Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture as James Ceasar, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, explores some of the Constitution’s most significant contributions to political theory, focusing on themes that have been largely unexamined in current scholarship.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | 8:10 a.m. – Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 1:30 p.m.
Third international conference on housing risk: New risk measures and their applications

We invite you to join us for this year’s international conference on housing risk — cosponsored by the Collateral Risk Network and AEI International Center on Housing Risk — which will focus on new mortgage and collateral risk measures and their applications.

Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 2:15 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Speaker of the House John Boehner on resetting America’s economic foundation

Please join us as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delivers his five-point policy vision to reset America’s economy.

Friday, September 19, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Reforming Medicare: What does the public think?

Please join us as a panel of distinguished experts explore the implications of the report and the consumer role in shaping the future of Medicare.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.