By Bruce Kauffmann –

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.  From that moment on. the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy collapses over loose fiscal policy, followed by a dictatorship.” ­ – Alexander Fraser Thomas

The $2 trillion coronavirus-stimulus bill will ease the suffering of millions today, and that is a noble goal.  But it will unquestionably add to the nearly $24 trillion national debt that will cause horrific suffering for millions sometime in the future.  Then again, in a Democracy the people invariably choose short-term gain over long-term pain because it is usually others who pay the price for that immediate gain.  So we say to Congress, “If you want to keep your jobs, keep voting for legislation that keeps the goodies coming.”  The result is legislation providing us with government benefits far in excess of the taxes we pay to fund those benefits. Thus, we are racking up around $1 trillion deficits every year, and the current debt per American citizen is $72,000, while per American taxpayer it is $191,000.

Then again, since, so far, we the people have shown no interest in addressing this issue, nothing will be done until the fiscal Grim Reaper appears with a “Balance Due” statement that must be paid, and “a democracy collapses over loose fiscal policy, followed by a dictatorship.”

But who is likely to be stuck with the bill?  Our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and generations following, none of which had the power to tell Congress, “This is wrong,” because none of them had the power to vote.  That is how Democracy works. The current voters are sovereign and can force Congress to adopt fiscal policies that only benefit them, the non-voting future generations be damned.

Granted, we are not technically a majority-rule Democracy.  Our republican government has checks on popular rule designed to thwart the selfish designs of majorities.  But as waves constantly crash against the rocks, eroding them, self-interested majorities constantly crash against those checks on power, especially in times of crisis such as now, when the public is more easily persuaded that giving the government powers not assigned to it in the Constitution is worth the erosion of our freedoms.  All the more so in this case because to the extent that the trillions spent by the government to ensure our economic security today results in a lack of freedom, it will not be us whose freedoms are curtailed, but those who follow and will be forced to (somehow) pay back the trillions we spent for our security.

This is wrong.

Thinking Outloud