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Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You

28 Feb

Alexis de Tocqueville said in his book Democracy in America that democracy “can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.” [1] He also said, in the same book, that “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” [2] This Frenchman, over 170 years ago, saw with alarming accuracy what is happening today in America. Modern political races have become more like middle-school student council elections, with the candidates offering wild promises to their electorate that they have no way to keep. And the voters have become just as bad, choosing candidates based on who is offering them the most, instead of voting for what is best for the country.

Voters and Congress, working in tandem, have swept any concern about sustainability and finances under the rug, choosing instead to vote themselves more and more payments and services from the public treasury, which we have no hope of paying for as a country, and that government has no business providing. This is not to say that fiscal responsibility means the government should abandon the elderly and disabled to their fate, as the pro-spend mentality of some individuals would have you believe. However, it is clear that the government is living well outside its means, and that people have come to expect far more from government than it was ever meant to provide.

Tocqueville predicted that the ultimate result of this process is that democracy will collapse over loose fiscal policy and be followed by a dictatorship. As a country, we are dangerously close to this point, but it is not too late to halt and reverse the process. However, to do so, a majority of the voters must recognize that the financial writing is on the wall, and that, as a country, we have maxed out our credit. The only option left, other than to continue in our current path until the government collapses, is to eliminate the extravagances in our budget and to cease operating on a deficit.

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