An EconTalk Podcast Listening Guide

Don Boudreaux on Public Debt

Listen to the EconTalk podcast Don Boudreaux on Public Debt and consider these questions.

1. The conversation begins by describing the circumstance of individual, or family, debt. What does Boudreaux mean when he says there is no moral opprobrium attached to debt?

2. Roberts adds that historically, there have been limits on the (individual’s) ability to borrow. What are these limits he describes?

3. Much of the rest of the conversation regards the appropriateness of comparing individual to public debt. Roberts and Boudreaux suggest several differences between the two. What are they?

4. Why does Boudreaux consider it problematic to think of “the nation” going into debt?

5. How does Boudreaux describe James Buchanan’s project in his Public Principles of Public Debt? Put another way, what “new orthodoxy” is Buchanan reacting against, and how?

6. Roberts and Boudreaux use the example of war, and suggest five means by which the government might finance it. What are these five means, and which one would you be most likely to support? Why?

7. Roberts quotes extensively from a Paul Krugman NYT opinion piece. Why does Krugman believe that government borrowing is not analogous to personal borrowing?

8. How does Boudreaux argue that Krugman got it wrong in the opinion piece mentioned in the previous question?