Britain can now refinance the 4% Consuls at more favorable terms to the taxpayer, and so it will pay off a tiny amount of its total debt in February—for the first time in 67 years. There are 11,200 registered holders of theses bonds, with 92% holding less than £10,000 worth.
Incredibly, because the 4% Consuls were used to refinance even older debt, some of the debt being repaid in early 2015 goes as far back as the 18th century. “In 1853, then-chancellor Gladstone consolidated, among other things, the capital stock of the South Sea Company originating in 1711, which had collapsed in the infamous South Sea Bubble financial crisis of 1720,” the UK Treasury said. And Chancellor George Goschen converted bonds first issued in 1752 and subsequently used them to finance the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars, as well as the Slavery Abolition Act of 1835.
Considering the American debt right now, I’m sure the numbers and time periods discussed in this Quartz article will be seen again in the next few hundred years.
Perhaps the most astounding part:
Facing the huge financial strains of the Great Depression, chancellor Neville Chamberlain used patriotism again to convert some of the “4% Consuls” into perpetual bonds, which give the debtor the right to never pay the principal as long as the interest is paid—which he cut to 3.5%.
Just imagine the bureaucratic frenzy if the general population demanded the right to never pay taxes as long as interest was continually paid.