Sunday, December 27, 2009

Robert Shiller's Proposal for Trills

Here's an economic proposal that's way outside the box: Robert Shiller says that the US government should sell equity shares in our gross domestic product.

Shiller calls the shares "trills." Each trill would represent one-trillionth of the United States G.D.P., and it would pay a dividend equal to one-trillionth of that year's G.D.P. He argues that trills could become a new source of funds for the government. I am unclear on how the fundraising aspect would work, although I assume the initial sale of the trills would be similar to the way in which an IPO generates funds for a company.
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Shiller writes about trills in today's NYT, here. He says that for 2009 a trill would return $14 in dividends and cost in the range of $1,400 (thus representing approximately a 1% annual yield).

I am curious as to the nature of other economists' objections to this idea. Is the problem that a market in trills would make it too easy to gamble on the fluctuations in the US economy, thus increasing instability?

Would trills make it too easy for other nations to acquire a "stake" in the US government? This can't be the objection, since the Chinese (among others) already control an enormous debt stake.

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