Cash injection: could we cure all disease with a trillion dollars?
Could such a large amount of money end the Covid pandemic? Eradicate disease? Provide universal healthcare and fund vaccine research?
You know that daydream where you suddenly come into a vast fortune? You could buy a castle or a tropical island hideaway, help out all your friends, do a bit of good in the world. But what if it was a truly incredible sum? What if you had $1tn to spend, and a year to do it? And what if the rules of the game were that you had to do it for the world – make some real difference to people’s lives, or to the health of the planet, or to the advancement of science.
A trillion dollars – that’s one thousand billion dollars – is at once an absurdly huge amount of money, and not that much in the scheme of things. It is, give or take, 1% of world GDP. It’s what the US spends every year and a half on the military. It is an amount that can be quite easily rustled up through the smoke and mirrors of quantitative easing, which is officially the mass purchase of government bonds, but which looks suspiciously like the spontaneous creation of money. After the 2008 financial crash, more than $4.5tn was quantitatively eased in the US alone. All the other major economies made their own money in this ghostly way.