Let’s say you loan me $10,000 but then I fall on hard times and it looks like you may never get your money back. When you express your concern I reply, “Don’t worry; considering the two of us collectively, we just owe it to ourselves.”

Would you find that response comforting? Of course not. In fact, the reply is so silly, you can’t imagine anyone saying it. But New York Times economics writer Paul Krugman said exactly that the other day when writing about the international monetary system: