A Riddle on Money

Here is a fun riddle for the next social gathering you find yourself at. Before I get into it I will say that it is a fair riddle in that it is not a trick question. Anyone who knows how the dollar / monetary system works will be able to figure it out just by thinking about it. The answer is common sense but also sounds nonsensical at the same time.

The question is: How many dollars are there in total for the whole country. This works for both Canada and the USA. This includes all of the money that everyone in and outside of the country own for, Citizens, government, foreigners, including Cash, coins, bank deposits, etc. The answer is correct if within 100% of the actual number. So if the answer was hypothetically one trillion dollars a two trillion dollar answer is close enough to be correct.

The only rules are that you have to subtract all of the debts from the total. I.e. A dollar can’t be used even if you have it in your wallet or bank account if you also owe another dollar to someone. This is because you don’t really own that dollar, you are effectively just borrowing it.

The answer? The grand total of all dollars in the country? It is $0.00. There are no dollars when settled on a balance sheet.

I know this isn’t really fun riddle I promised at the start. The paradox is that we think of dollars as an asset even though they are a debt instrument. The reason for this is that all dollars are created as debt from banks with interest attached. But the interest currency is not created so there will always be more debt then currency.

I used to have a website that tracked the amount owed by each Canadian citizen for the interest on debts owed by the government. I haven’t updated it in years so I will pull down some new data and update that soon. I think it’s around $18K per person.

 

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