Lose the We

by Don Boudreaux on December 13, 2010

in Debt and Deficits, Myths and Fallacies, Other People's Money

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Fareed Zakaria writes that “The basic problem in the U.S. economy is that for a generation now, we have been consuming more and saving and investing less” (“Procrastination economics,” Dec. 13).

Who’s “we”?  I haven’t consumed more than I’ve earned.  But being an American, I get confusingly lumped in with a group of people who do spend wildly: a majority of elected U.S. government officials.  They spend wildly because they spend other people’s money.

Suppose local mafia goons, confident in their on-going ability to extract wealth from shop owners and residents in their neighborhood, borrow without hesitation to finance their and their pals’ lavish lifestyles.  Would anyone issue a blanket condemnation of the neighborhood, accusing its denizens of profligacy?

The fact that the mafiosos who “protect” us win their positions through elections – meaning, they buy their offices with other people’s money – does not alter the fact that A is not irresponsible just because B borrows from C in order to give to D, with the bill for repayment handed in the future to A and to A Jr.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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