American household debt has more than doubled in a decade to $13.8 trillion at the end of 2007 from $6.4 trillion in 1999, the vast majority of it in mortgages and home equity lines, according to Fed data. But the value of U.S. householders’ biggest asset — their homes — is now falling.
Across the economy, wary lenders are demanding that borrowers put up more collateral or sell assets to reduce debts.
To Austrian economists, the so-called international credit market crisis is a prima facie case of the inherent destructive tendency of government-controlled paper money: it is the consequence of an excessive expansion of credit and money, which encourages uneconomic investment and leads to unsustainable debt burdens.
Ludwig von Mises put this calamitous development as follows:
The wavelike movement affecting the economic system, the recurrence of periods of boom which are followed by periods of depression, is the unavoidable outcome of the attempts, repeated again and again, to lower the gross market rate of interest by means of credit expansion. There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.