“The Case of the Undying Debt,” F. Velde (2009)

In France, the annual budget of the treasury to this day contains a strange entry: an annuity worth slightly more than one Euro, owed forever. Where did such a claim, the oldest known government debt in the world, come from? Economist historian Francois Velde tracks the source to an obscure 18th century duchy along the Luxembourg-Belgium border, a seizure of forests by the Revolutionary Government in the 1790s, and a French distaste, similar to that of the US, for reneging on state-owned debt in the period since. The article is not too long, and the author admirably performs the task of the economic historian: discovering why economic objects and events came to be.


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