With looming prospects of a United States government shutdown and debt default, I decided to revive a relevant post from July 27, 2011, entitled Toxodebtosis. Here it is:
Toxoplasmosis is a fascinatingly tragic condition. A mouse infected by the protoctistan, Toxoplasma gondii,
behaves strangely. Instead of scampering away at the first whiff of
feline scent, as an uninfected murine certainly would, the mouse is
dangerously attracted to eau de chat. As its predator steadily approaches, the unfortunate mouse simply awaits, even welcomes, its catastrophic end.
Humans may also be infected by T. gondii. Those with
toxoplasmosis often exhibit an unreasonable penchant for obviously risky
behavior. Neurally transfixed by the parasite, an infected person may
not only stare danger in the eyes, but willingly step within its opened
Though many metaphors, some more purple and florid than others, have
been offered to describe the debt ceiling crisis currently threatening
the United States, toxoplasmosis may be as good as any. Like a
parasitized mouse, the American economy and polity seem to be marching
steadily and willingly towards a possible August 2, 2011, default.
Unlike the mouse, however, if the United States is consumed by default,
it will likely take the rest of the world with it. The weird serenity
currently infecting the political classes in the District of Columbia,
some of whom appear not simply to have accepted default, but positively
to welcome it, suggests a debilitating political disease capable of
leading to much economic pain.
While it remains unlikely that the United States will actually default
next week, equity, bond, gold, and even food markets, as well as credit
rating agencies, have already begun to price in significant economic
Can a treatment be found in time? If so, will it merely control the
symptoms, or cure the disease? Whatever the result, the current debt
ceiling crisis amounts to the largest and most dangerous game of cat and
mouse ever played.