Why has Britain managed to boldly go into fiscal territory which the US has hitherto ducked? That is the $800bn question hanging in the air in New York this weekend, after George Osborne, chancellor, visited the city.
During his whistle-stop tour, Mr Osborne met a host of Wall Street and New York luminaries, at a breakfast hosted by Tina Brown, the media icon, and a dinner arranged by Michael Bloomberg, the mayor. As he schmoozed he was greeted with emotions ranging from respect to rapturous applause.
What provokes respect is the way London has not only created a multi-year fiscal reform plan, entailing a striking £110bn worth of adjustment – but, more importantly, started to implement it.
In technology and science, more is better. Prefixes such as mega, tera, peta and yotta (1 followed by 24 zeros) come into use because technology gets better or scientists think bigger (the sun’s luminosity is 385 yottawatts).
Numbers are also expanding in finance and economics. Trillions (1,000bn) are now unavoidable: Belgian banks have €1.3 trillion of assets and the 12 largest economies each have more than of $1 trillion of gross domestic product. The quadrillion (1,000,000bn) lurks: you need it to measure annual global volumes in the foreign exchange market.