UPDATED February 19, 2017: Unfortunately the Wall Street Journal has taken down access to this great interactive file. Their removal changes nothing, though. The point remains valid today. One worth another look is this Next president may face woes of growing worldwide debt, public and private
I came across this fascinating chart of global debt by country from the Wall Street Journal. What I really like about it is the ability to isolate countries and traverse the years from 1990 to 2012. Of course there were some major dislocations during this time frame, the tech bubble bursting, the Euro crisis, and the housing bubble (or whatever you might term the 2008 financial crisis). Watching the key players through these times, like Ireland, a great beneficiary of the tech boom with their educated population and favorable tax environment is most compelling. Ultimately, they became one of the poster children for the Euro crisis. Watch their private debt loads skyrocket.
Equally interesting are Italy and Greece, with their booming public debt over the past several years. Finally, look at the USA, especially after 2008, with private debt pulling back, generally, and public debt growing dramatically. Yes, it isn’t anything we don’t all know in concept, but graphical representations always do something more, don’t they?
I have done no studies of these phenomena, but suspect there are practical limits to which either axis can grow. So, I postulate that we view countries staying within those limits as more stable and doing better over time. Those that outstrip one or the other, or both, tend to rise to a different level of global consciousness. You decide how much of this is related to entitlement programs or wars, tax code weaknesses or, as some might argue, lack of self-control. It is certainly worth considering.