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Our National Debt

I was thinking of the amount of Canada’s national debt, currently around 715 billion dollars (that’s federal debt only, with Provincial, it would be over 1 trillion). And, here, the word ‘currently’ is very loose. For a truly frightening visual, see this:

That amount of money is tough to imagine. But, I wanted to perceive it in terms of hope – a perspective that might allow us to imagine it actually being paid off.

And so, I imagined a photon money machine, where dollar coins are produced relative to the speed of light and the ticking of a second hand on a clock, each dollar produced going right towards paying down the debt.

How does it work?

Picture a long tube, the circumference of say, a pencil, stretching around the entire equator of the earth. The total distance of this tube is 25,920 km. From a single point along this tube we have a photon gun that shoots single photons of light through the tube in one direction; a new photon being released each second. At the very same point, we also have a ‘finish line’; a detector that measures each time that the photon passes by on its journey through the tube around the earth. Only one photon is allowed in the tube at a time, so, after one second, when the next photon is released, the previous photon is removed at the finish line. And, the beauty of this machine is that every time the photon crosses the detector, that is, every time it has gone right around the earth once, a dollar coin drops out of the machine and goes towards paying the debt.

Now, light travels pretty damn quickly. In one single second it covers 300,000 km. That’s right, that’s 300k kilometres every second. And since our machine shoots out one photon of light each second, and since we know that the circumference of our tube around the earth is 25,920 kms, we can easily calculate that our debt-busting machine will be producing $11 (rounded) each second; one dollar for each time the photon circles the earth and sets off our detector. And that’s no chump change. At that speed our money machine is spitting out $660 a minute; $39,600 per hour; and $950,400 every day.

How long do we need to keep this incredible money generating light machine running to pay off Canada’s debt?

Well, apparently, until the sun explodes, because the interest on that debt ensures that the debt is rising at around $57,000,000 (that 57 million) dollars every day. Every. Single. Day. To keep up with just the interest our speed of light printing machine would have to spit out eleven $50 bills each second instead of eleven $1 coins. And that’s just to keep the $715 billion from growing any larger.

And for the advanced student of mind-implosion, the US debt sits currently at around 25 trillion dollars. That’s 35 times Canada’s debt.


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