"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Accelerating Towards the Falls

We've all met people who seem to wallow in their own failures, who start down a path of failing, and then do things that are so self-destructive that it's almost as if they're actively trying to hasten their personal catastrophe.   Those kinds of people must at some point say to themselves: "Things are so bad, what does it matter if they get worse?"   And so the chronic gambler blows through the last of his life savings; or the alcoholic gets behind the wheel one more time; or the man who has been caught cheating on his wife and has sworn it will never happen again goes out and actively makes it happen again.   It's like they're in a canoe, drifting downstream toward a waterfall, and they're frantically paddling downstream trying to get there faster.  

Have we become a country of such self-destructive losers?   Well, you might think so.   Apparently Roger Kimball does, writing today the following:
There is no point in trying to imagine what a $1.5-trillion deficit means.  For most of us mortals, it is simply unimaginable.  All the more is a total federal debt of $14.3 trillion (and counting). And I haven’t even broached what I think of as the Williamson Warning (after Kevin Williamson, who gave prominence to the dour fact), namely that the real out-the-door, all-in price of U.S. debt is something closer to $130 trillion, a sum that, if you can bear to think about it, is Book-of-Revelations, Seventh-Seal, Four-Horsemen-of- the-Apocalypse scary.
Consider:  there are roughly 150 million workers in America.   A $1.5 trillion deficit means that our federal government borrowed $10,000 for every person in the American workforce!   In one year!  Where do they think that money will come from?   It can only come from those same workers, can't it?   And yet:  it can't.   American workers can't possibly generate that kind of extra wealth to pay off just this year's debt.   And what about next year's?   And the year after that?  

To paraphrase Scott Fitzgerald:   And so we beat on, boats borne along ceaselessly toward Niagara Falls.   Can't you hear the roaring downstream as the water crashes on the rocks?   I can.

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