Monday, November 30, 2009

The Moral Imperative of Running Up Debt


If you assume a benefit to your children and grandchildren, it would be morally wrong not to leave them the debts associated with your indulgences:
It is possible that the Afghanistan War is a bad idea; if so, the remedy is to end the war, not to raise taxes. If it is a good idea, the benefits will accrue to the inhabitants of the future, who will be protected from terrorists and other baddies, not us. We perform a benefit for the future, and we charge them for our costs; what is there to object to?
See? There's no justification for paying for war - you either end it, or assume that it will bring about good results for future generations and pass the cost on to them! You don't need their permission or consent, and it's legitimate to work off of assumption because, quite obviously, we have no way of knowing how the war in Afghanistan will turn out for future generations. But no matter how you slice it, it would be just plain wrong to expect war proponents to help finance the war - maybe it would be just to tax war opponents, for failing to stop the war, but not the proponents with their demands for unlimited deficit spending and sacrifice by others.
Deficit spending for what is in effect a capital investment — as opposed to spending on current consumption — is justified. If the War Tax is imposed, we simply transfer additional wealth from ourselves — including the soldiers and others already making the sacrifices — to the future.
Assuming for the moment that is correct.... Leaving future generations a better world, at our own expense? The horror!

And how can it not be a capital investment to burn through billions of dollars in munitions to blow up billions of dollars in infrastructure? Oh, I see, it's "in effect" a capital investment, even though it's not actually a capital investment, so even though we're destroying wealth we should nonetheless treat the war as an investment or a wealth-creating activity. It's even better than the Robert Samuelson / Fred Hiatt-type arguments of "we can afford it" and "deficit spending for wars is okay 'because wars end'" - we have a moral imperative to run up the deficit so as to not let future generations leech off of our lack of sacrifice. It's only those things that provably help people that must be paid for with new taxes.

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