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How Much Debt Is Too Much?

The new conventional wisdom in these unconventional times is that advanced-economy governments can take advantage of today's ultra-low interest rates to borrow and spend without limit in order to support the economy. But the fact is that there is always a limit, and it may come into view sooner than many realize.

CHICAGO – As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, governments in advanced economies have opened their coffers to support households and small businesses, spending on the order of 15-20% of GDP in many cases. Cumulative debt levels now exceed GDP in many developed countries; and, on average, debt as a share of GDP is approaching post-World War II highs.