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The French debate about their national debt seems to have taken a new and faintly alarming turn. The lead article on the front page of yesterday’s Le Monde was headlined: “States and their debts: a brutal struggle since the Middle Ages”.
In a sub headline, the paper proclaimed: “Declare war or liquidate your creditors …some historic methods of freeing yourself from debt.” It also noted cheerily that France’s debt passed 80% of GDP in 1788. Both numbers are meant to be significant. French debt is now roughly at the 80% level and 1788 was, of course, the year before the French Revolution. As the paper notes, the whole beastly mess kicked off when Louis XVI ran out of cash and convened the Estates-General to try to deal with the state’s mounting debts. You have been warned.