By Dickson Igwe, Contributor
Three intangibles drive the global economy: psychology, fear, and trust. All three work together, and in varying degrees.
These three variables impact the financial bottom line of investors, businesses, and consumers.
Now, global debt is a vast ocean of borrowing that is a worrying factor for economists. It amounts to an astonishing $250 trillion.
Global debt of such magnitude could generate a future stock market crash leading to economic depression, such as what took place in 2008, when unsustainable debt-crushed a number of global financial institutions and banks, tanking the world financial system and economy.
Economic depressions lead to social and economic misery, political instability, and even war. For example, post-Hurricane Irma, the Virgin Islands economy has contracted.
This has led to a lack of confidence by consumers and business owners in the prospects for economic growth. This has further fed into a lack of confidence in governing institutions, especially the political institutions.
How this plays out in upcoming General Elections to take place in a matter of months is an intriguing question. OK! The threat of a global depression driven by unsustainable debt cannot be ignored.
Massive growth to global debt
Global debt has mushroomed since the late 1990s into a ‘mind-boggling figure’. The $250 trillion colossal public and private debt metric is the result of war in the Middle East, a supply sided economic model that encourages debt as a tool for economic growth, and a culture of government borrowing and spending that appears to believe the global lender- the wealthy investor – has unlimited cash.
Global debt has become a speeding express train headed towards a deep gorge. The 21st-century public borrowing and spending drive huge deficits year after year with no end in sight.
This is public borrowing that maintains social welfare and drives every type of project under the sun. Government borrowing is today the new normal.
Western governments – apart from major exporters such as Germany, China, and South Korea, net exporting nations with huge balance of payments surpluses – cannot finance spending from their own revenue streams.
Gov’t borrowing the new normal
In the western hemisphere, government borrowing is the norm for public expenditure. And consumer and investor confidence in the public borrowing culture of the west appears sufficient for now to keep the proverbial wolf from the door of both lenders, and borrowers, large and small.
However, sustainable borrowing depends on investor confidence in a government’s ability to pay back its debt with interest.
Investor confidence in the countries that sell the most global debt: the USA and Western Europe, remains high.
As a consequence, global debt continues to grow without limit into a massive and ominous mountain. Trust and confidence in the system is what is holding it together. A market crash is a psychological phenomenon in economics.
A financial and stock market meltdown is a catastrophic fall in business and market value, driven by plummeting investor, business, and consumer confidence that leads to a further meltdown in the prices of assets such as company stocks, and residential and commercial property.
A market crash that is not fixed through swift intervention by government and central bank, leads to a freefall in consumer demand, business closures, high unemployment, pervasive bankruptcy, and economic contraction.
Economics driven by human emotion
Economics is a social science first and foremost. Economics is driven by human emotion and fear, in spite of the love for hard figures by economists.
That is why the global debt mountain is a pin approaching the balloon of business and consumer confidence.
Will it prick and burst that confidence as some economists expect? When confidence collapses the force of gravity pulls the value and substance of the rest of the economy down with it.
Whether the world is headed towards a crash of epic proportion is a multi-billion dollar question.
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