How 'Rich' Nations Are Actually Poor

Climate debt gives places like the US, Europe, and Australia a negative net worth

Sustainable Development Index. Red is bad and blue is good. If you account for human development against planetary costs, the 'rich' western nations are actually the worst.

The US, Europe, Australia, et al call themselves rich but, well, that's rich. These countries are so broke that they broke the Earth. The west is driving a leased Bentley, wearing layaway Gucci, all of it acquired by fraud. They might look rich, but their balance sheet looks like shit. In comparison, Sri Lanka or Ghana are rich because we're not underwater.

Once you subtract their climate liabilities, the colonizers have a negative net worth. Hence they're at the bottom of climate-weighted rankings like the Sustainable Development Index, where they belong. These countries call themselves developed, but they're actually frauds. They have embezzled the Earth.

If you do any sane accounting these are not rich countries at all. The US, UK, EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, these place are worth less than zero. These are the poorest places on Earth.

The Accounts Of Nations

In accounting, there's a pretty simple way we measure wealth, and it's not 'do you look like you're balling out?'. It's called a balance sheet. The basic equation is very simple.

Net Worth = Assets - Liabilities

This seems obvious. How much stuff you have minus what you owe. If someone is wearing all Gucci they might seem rich, but that's not actually an asset. If they bought it on a credit card, that's a liability, they're actually poor. This equation is how we measure wealth in individuals and companies, but we somehow ignore it in the wealth of nations. We just talk about GDP, and not what's on the other side of the balance sheet.

In the 1930s and 40s people like Simon Kuznets in the US and John Maynard Keynes started applying accounting ideas to governments, creating national accounts. This is interesting, but also made the sun explode.