Apparently really old debts, . . . extremely old debts, . . . ridiculously old pre-Shakespearean debts can be “laughed off” and do not need to be paid. Our clients would be thrilled if the IRS treated their tax debt this way.
In 1562 the city of Berlin borrowed 400 gilders from a little village called Mittenwalde and never repaid the debt. Here we are 540 years later and the debt has grown into the trillions when accounting for interest and inflation.
Officials from Berlin recently met with officials from Mittenwalde and presented them with a symbolic 1539 gilder. I think this was Berlin’s way of saying, “We’re never going to pay you.” Maybe if they hadn’t lost the loan documentation the debt would have been repaid in a timely manner. Also, checking in with Berlin only every 50 years doesn’t exactly adhere to the squeeky-wheel-gets-the-grease theory.