Fourteen countries that don’t have debt ceilings and are not on fire

August 30, 2013

House speaker John Boehner has said that he considers the debt limit an important part of the democratic process, a way to effect needed change when other methods fail.

"The president doesn’t think this is fair, thinks I’m being difficult to deal with," Boehner said in a speech Monday. "But I’ll say this: It may be unfair, but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices."

Given that the U.S. and Denmark are the only two democratic states to have a debt ceiling — and that Denmark's has never been used as a political leverage point the way Republicans are using ours, and the ceiling has always been way above Denmark's actual debt level — it's a bit hard to test the proposition that not having a debt limit prevents countries from making tough reforms. So let's just say, "Screw it," and see whether or not any of the developed countries without debt ceilings are on fire, shall we?

Sweden


(Roger Wollstadt via Flickr)

Stockholm's Gamla stan, or "old town," has a remarkable level of not-being-on-fireness, despite the country's decision to eschew its Danish neighbor's approach to government debt.

United Kingdom


(Clive Darra via Flickr)

A view of this intersection in the southern coastal town of Brighton, sandwiched between the Brighton Pier and the city's Old Steine Gardens, reveals exactly zero fires, in spite of the bounty of combustible material in the gardens, not to mention the kingdom's decision to allow parliament to borrow without setting a limit on its debt.

Canada


(Doug Kerr via Flickr)

The Rideau Centre shopping centre in Ottawa, at right, has not collapsed into embers despite its proximity to the houses of parliament, which have to date failed to set a cap on the amount of debt the government is allowed to accumulate.

Germany


(edwin.11 via Flickr)

Munich's Marienplatz has avoided being burnt to a Bavarian crisp despite German leaders' failure to follow their Danish neighbors to the north's model of sovereign debt control.

Italy


(ho visto nina volare via Flickr)

The southern seaside town of Sorrento has, unlike its neighboring Pompeii, not been engulfed in lava and/or flames, even though those geniuses in Rome refuse to implement a legal cap on the country's government borrowing.

France


(David Siu via Flickr)

Pedestrians shuffle through a street in Paris's Latin Quarter, apparently confident that France's lack of legal constraints on the government's borrowing will not lead to their immolation in one of these narrow, not particularly compliant-with-modern-fire-safety-standards streets. So far, their confidence has been justified.

Japan


(Binder.donedat via Flickr)

Tokyo's Harajuku district and the fashion scene with which it's become synonymous have inspired songs by Belle & Sebastian and Gwen Stefani but, to date, the Japanese Diet's decision to let sovereign debt grow without a statutory cap has not set the area ablaze.

Australia


(eGuide Travel via Flickr)

The city of Melbourne is as bustling as ever, its residents apparently quite sure that those clowns in Canberra's decision to not cap the nation's (quite tiny) national debt won't turn the city into a great ball of fire.

New Zealand


(Dunedin NZ via Flickr)

The University of Otago in Dunedin was the breeding ground for Flying Nun Records bands like The Bats, the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, The Chills and The Clean which set the college rock scene ablaze in the 1980s. But the flame was not carried on in the form of a raging, lack-of-debt-ceiling-induced fire on the school's campus.

Austria


(Ethan Prater via Flickr)

The Wiener Riesenrad, or "Viennese giant wheel," has counted as guests some people who probably deserve to burn, chief among them Harry Lime in "The Third Man." But as of yet, the Austrian government's willingness to wrack up government debt without a defined limit in place has yet to ravage the city behind it with flames, or cause the wheel to be heated until molten.

Norway


(Steve Cadman via Flickr)

The beautiful painted wood houses of the Lofotens archipelago have, as of yet, not been reduced to a pile of ash despite this Scandinavian petrostate's utter lack of a debt ceiling.

Finland


( "IK's World Trip" via Flickr)

A look at the Kaartinkaupunki neighborhood in southern Helsinki reveals a marked absence of combustion in this land free of government borrowing caps.

Iceland


(Deivis via Flickr)

These houses along the Ring Road — the only motorway to circle around the island of Iceland — appear not to have burst into flames in the absence of a statutory limit on the country's debt.

The Netherlands


(Luke Ma via Flickr)

The lack of a raging fire in Rembrandtplein ("Rembrandt Square") in Amsterdam comes in spite of both the city's famed decadence (what with the legal prostitution and marijuana and psychedelic truffles) and the Dutch government's decision to spend without any upper limit on the sovereign debt its budgets produce.

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Sarah Kliff | August 30, 2013