Sovereign debt isn’t like a credit card, family budget, or a mortgage, no matter how many folksy analogies politicians make. No, government debt is something altogether more sinister. When a state borrows money, repayment is on the heads of its citizenry, without expiration. At one point in the Hellenic drama Germany’s war reparations were at issue. An infinitesimally small minority of the population could recall the war, and an even smaller subset — if any — was even remotely accountable. But the point is illustrated clearly: public debt is interminable.
This trait alone is toothless without its necessary complement: enforcement. Since government revenues are generated through taxes, and government debts are future revenues spent now, then debts are simply future taxes. While this is well-covered ground, most people seem to forget that taxes are one of the only debts for which nonpayment results in prison time.