Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Thomas Jefferson Warned Us"

"...The U.S. government is not broken; it is dysfunctional.

That is, it functions, but in an unhealthy way, a way that needs to be corrected.

...Thomas Jefferson recognized this flaw immediately.

"No man is more ardently intent to see the public debt soon and sacredly paid off than I am,"
he wrote to President Washington in 1792.

"This exactly marks the difference between Colonel Hamilton's views and mine,
that I would wish the debt paid to-morrow; he wishes it never to be paid,
but always to be a thing wherewith to corrupt and manage the Legislature."

To Senator, and former House Speaker, Nathaniel Macon, Jefferson wrote in 1821,
"There does not exist an engine so demoralizing of the nation as a public debt.

It will bring on us more ruin at home than all the enemies from abroad..."

Jefferson thought a perpetual public debt was so injurious to liberty
that he theorized a way of preventing one generation
from passing a debt on to the next.

In a letter to John Eppes in 1813, he wrote,
"What is to hinder (the government) from creating a perpetual debt?

The laws of nature, I answer."

Each generation would be limited
to accumulating only the debt that it could pay off before it died, he theorized.

"Suppose that a majority, on the first day of the year 1794,
had borrowed a sum of money equal to the fee-simple value of the State,
and to have consumed it in eating, drinking and making merry in their day;
or if you please, quarrelling and fighting with their unoffending neighbors."

If that generation tried to pass that debt to the next generation,
"Every one will say no," Jefferson wrote, "

...the laws of nature impose no obligation on them to pay this debt.

And although, like some other natural rights,
this has not yet entered into any declaration of rights,
it is no less a law, and ought to be acted on by honest governments."

...With no restraint on the accumulation of long-term debt,
Jefferson's worst fears have been realized.

Our politicians have figured out that they can benefit themselves
by borrowing excessively and passing the bill to the next generation,
which is exactly what they have done.

The current debt is more than $14 trillion, or nearly $47,000 per U.S. citizen.

Jefferson would be appalled.

That "perpetual debt," as Jefferson called it -- not the recent "crisis"
caused by taking the debt ceiling seriously -- is our government's real dysfunction,
and what must be fixed if we are to reclaim the liberty that comes,
as Jefferson knew, from being freed of the "torment" of perpetual indebtedness."

Andrew Cline

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