For the second episode in this season of History of Ideas, David discusses the Scottish philosopher David Hume and explores how eighteenth-century arguments about the national debt can help make sense of American politics today. When does public borrowing become a recipe for national disaster? Who is really in charge of the public finances: the government or the bankers, Washington, D.C. or Wall Street? And what has all this got to do with Hume’s arguments for the morality of suicide?

Read Hume’s original essay ‘Of Public Credit’ here

For more on Hume from the archive of the LRB:

In such a Labyrinth
Jonathan Rée on Hume’s voracious appetites: ‘“The Corpulence of his whole person was better fitted to communicate the Idea of the Turtle-Eating Alderman than of a refined Philosopher,” as a friend put it.’

That Satirical Way of Nipping
Fara Dabhoiwala on Hume and mockery: ‘David Hume often resorted to ridicule to undermine hypocrisy or superstition, even if he doubted its capacity to settle controversial questions, arguing that mockery was as likely to distort as to reveal the truth.’

Short Books on Great Men
John Dunn on Hume and us: ‘Hume is in some ways so very modern . . . But just because he is in some ways so close to us, it is easy to lose the sense that in many others his beliefs and experiences stand at some little distance from our own.’

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences