Call It “National Money” Not “National Debt”

I propose renaming the “National Debt” as the “National Money.” Here is why.

Once upon a time, governments had to round up gold to “pay for” things. Kings would gather gold to finance armies and pay mercenaries for their wars. If they collected it from the population through taxes, fees etc it was called “revenue.” If they borrowed it, they would have to pay it back. That was actual debt. Later, nations used gold as a means of exchange and had to actually collect or borrow as much gold as they would spend.

But things have changed. Gold is out of the picture. (So are shells, gems and other historical means of exchange.) Governments allocate resources toward priorities and issue currency as a means of exchange. This is commonly called “spending.” They do not “collect revenue” nor do they “borrow.” They appropriate and issue currency. They tax the currency back to balance and regulate the amount of currency in circulation, and to address inequalities and raise or lower public priorities (like taxing cigarettes.)

Many of the terms used have not kept up with the changes. People still think governments “borrow” when they sell bonds. But bonds are for other purposes than raising money (rounding up gold.)

The budget “deficit” is the amount of currency spent into the economy but not taxed back. What today is generally called the National Debt is the accumulated yearly budget deficits minus any yearly surpluses. (Surpluses happened in the Clinton years.) It is a measure of the currency spent into the economy and not taxed back out.

The legacy use of the word “debt” misleads people into thinking it is “debt.” It is not. Governments that issue their own currencies have no need to collect gold or other “revenue” to “pay for” the goods and services the government decides to direct toward priorities. (Of course governments should not direct more resources than are available, this creates inflation.)

I propose renaming the “National Debt” as the “National Money.”

Or maybe “NashCash.”