Governments Can Theoretically Destroy All Wealth in the World in One Year

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A recent article pointed out that Spiders could theoretically eat every human on Earth in one year.

It’s also shocking that governments can theoretically destroy all wealth in one year.

That’s an unfathomable amount of wealth extraction, but it raises the question: what is the limit?


Governments are quite literally all around us, even governments within governments. There is one in your town, one in your home, one in your office, another in your county, another in your state, and then there is the biggest one of all: the federal government.

Around the globe, governments even get to together and act to make war, bail out their friends, and regulate people.

All of them keep growing every year, in good times and bad. They get more powerful, more invasive, more inquisitive about your life and finances. There’s a good chance that at least one government is staring at you right now, sizing you up, eyes glistening in the shadows, ready to pounce on your wealth and liberty.

Governments can’t live on their own. Their only source of energy is someone else’s money. They have many strategies on how to get it, and many excuses for why they must get ever more. They tell people that without them, life would be nasty, brutish, and short. And yet, even a casual observer can see that governments specialize in nastiness, brutality, and shortening life.

If you were to tally up all the wealth taken by governments in a single year, how much would it be? According to the Tax Foundation, “In 2012, governments [in the United States] at all levels collected $4.2 trillion in taxes and other receipts and spent $5.5 trillion on government programs, thereby running a combined deficit of $1.3 trillion.”

That’s an unfathomable amount of wealth extraction, but it raises the question: what is the limit?

And here is where matters become chilling: there isn’t one. There isn’t anything to stop governments from taking as much as they want, whenever they want, in whatever way they can get it, so long as people don’t protest or push back.

And if history is any indication, governments just can’t seem to stop or even slow down. In other words, government could eat all wealth and still be hungry.

With all these governments around, what are we to do?

Taxing isn’t the only way governments get money. They also issue bills of credit and try to get people to buy them. Normally, your debt instrument has to be of solid quality to attract investors. Governments have figured out a different way. They came up with central banks, essentially machines that print money. They can credibly promise to pay on their debt no matter what. This has generally assured investors.

But experts also point out a serious problem: printing enough money to pay the debt and service all future obligations, would actually obliterate the value of money itself. It could theoretically fall to zero.

What is stopping that from happening? In theory, nothing. Only the benevolence of government officials, the evidence of which is in short supply.

With all these governments around, acting without limit and extracting wealth in every possible way and facing no constraints on the possibility of literally destroying every last bit of wealth on planet earth, what are we to do?

Experts say that we need to find ways to limit them, some means of controlling their voracious appetites. People have indeed tried this, but without much luck. This accounts for the growing interest in what people once thought was a crazy idea: just get rid of them altogether.

Regardless, so long as governments as we know them are this big, this powerful, this much on the loose, the perception that we are safe from their insatiable gluttony will be an illusion.

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

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