Founding Principles of America 27: Avoid Debt Bondage

Founding Principles of America 27: Avoid Debt Bondage

From The 5,000 Year Leap—A Miracle that Changed the World

By W. Cleon Skousen

US Constitution Series 27: Avoiding the Burden of Debt Bondage

keySlavery or involuntary servitude is the result of either subjugation by conquest or succumbing to the bondage of debt. The Founders had undergone sufficient experience with debt to see its corrosive and debilitating effect, which tends to corrupt both individuals and nations.

There is also the sense of waste—much like the man who has to make payments on a dead horse.

The Founders’ Attitude toward Debt

  The Founding Fathers belonged to an age when debt was recognized for the ugly specter that it really is. Nearly everyone finds it to his advantage or absolute necessity to borrow on occasion. Debt become the only available means—a necessary evil. Nevertheless, the Founders wanted the nature of debt to be recognized for what it is: evil, because it is a form of bondage.

The kind of frugality for which the Founders were famous was rooted in the conviction that debt should be abhorred like a plague. They perceived excessive indebtedness as a form of cultural disease. (Skousen, 291-294)

225px-BenFranklin2Benjamin Franklin

“Ah, think what you do when you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.”

Should One Generation Impose Its Debts on the Next?

The fact that the indebtedness is shared by the whole people makes it no less ominous.

The Founders felt that the wars, economic problems, and debts of one generation should be paid for by te generation which incurred them. They wanted the rising generation to be genuinely free—both politically and economically. It was their feeling that passing on their debts to the next generation would be forcing the children of the future to be born into a certain amount of bondage or involuntary servitude—something for which they had neither voted nor subscribes. It would be, in a very literal sense, “taxation without representation.” Clearly, they said, it was a blatant violation of a fundamental republican principle.

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800Jefferson Considered an Inherited Debt Immoral

I, however, place economy among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.

That we are bound to defray [the war’s] expenses within our own time, and unauthorized to burden posterity with them, I suppose to have been proved in my former letter . . . We shall all consider ourselves morally  bound to pay them ourselves; and consequently within the life [expectancy] of the majority . . .We must raise, then, ourselves the money for this war, either by taxes within the year or by loans; and if by loans, we must repay them ourselves, proscribing forever the English practice of perpetual funding.

(Skousen, 294-296)

The History of the American National Debt

When we trace the history of the national debt, we find that the policy laid down by the Founders has been followed by every generation until the present one. We notice that after every war or financial emergency involving heavy indebtedness there was an immediate effort to pay it off as rapidly as possible. This policy was followed for the sake of the rising generation. The adult citizens of America wanted their children born in freedom, not bondage.

nationaldebtToday We Are Spending the Next Generation’s Inheritance

It will be noted that the nationl budget was less than a hundred billion dollars in 1960. Today we spend almost that much just for interest on the national debt. And that is more than the entire cost of World War I in real dollars!

[Today the national debt is soaring past 18 trillion.]

 

The Problem of the “Fix”

govwasteabounds.As a result, American taxpayers now discover themselves playing a role almost identical to that of an addict on hard drugs. The addict denounces his “habit” and despises the “pusher” who got him into it, but when he is confronted with the crisis of needing a “fix” he will plead with tears of anguish for the narcotic remedy.

                The “fix,” of course, is not a remedy at all. The real remedy is “withdrawal.”

By returning to the fundamental principles espoused by the Founding Fathers, we can reverse the trend and get America back to a formula of prosperity economics without a major crunch or depression. (Skousen, 297-303)

Next:

Founding Principles of America 28: American Exceptionalism—the Founders’ sense of Manifest Destiny

Founding Principles of America 26: Protecting role of Nuclear Family

 

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