Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Philosopher King?

Here is Scott Adams making his bid to become a Philosopher King. He is doing a wonderful impression of the kind of sage who should be in charge of things, you know, those of the noble Platonic Gold who deserve to rule because of their wisdom:
Last night I heard on television for the millionth time that our national debt is like borrowing from our children. Millions of viewers from around the country were probably nodding their heads in agreement. That saying has been around so long that we accept it as a simple statement of fact.

But are we borrowing from our children or investing in them? Suppose we decide to stop spending money so our children will have lots of money for themselves. That would be generous of us, right?

I don't think so.

I think future generations might like to have most of the things we're investing in, such as infrastructure, healthcare, schools, a clean environment, energy sources, and freedom, to name just a few. No one wants to inherit a country full of sickly, uneducated hobos, on the verge of being conquered by Cuba.

Obviously there's a middle ground, where we spend our money as wisely as possible in the present for the benefit of all. But stop making me feel guilty about leaving future generations a clean, educated, healthy, well-defended country with a vigorous economy, even if it comes with some debt attached. It still seems like a bargain.

And perhaps we should stop talking about the future debt in absolute dollars, because "trillions" scares the food out of my esophagus, through my large and small intestines, and about four feet into the surface of the earth. I prefer to hear our national debt expressed as percentages of, for example, our next 30 years of projected GDP. That way it doesn't seem so scary.

Future generations should go get a job. And a haircut. And stay off my lawn!
I especially like that list bit. It brings home the lament of every generation that "the kids are going to the dogs!". Yep. They need more discipline. Why, in the good old day, we used to have to walk five miles uphill in the snow both going to school, and do the same coming home. Times were tough back then.

I like the call for a "middle ground". Obama's been doing the same to no avail. But truth and good sense usually lie in the middle ground. The seductions of simplicity make fanatics of the left or right sound compelling. But life isn't that simple. Compromise makes more sense. As Scott Adams points out, you want to invest in your kids, but you only to a point. You need to avoid no investment (no debt, but impoverished kids) as well as too much investment at the expense of current lifestyle (kids are well set up, but at the expense of living a decent life today). Life is a series of trade-offs. You do the best you can, but you don't beat yourself up when you occasionally make a mistake. You should beat yourself up if you refuse to risk a mistake or you continually make mistakes. In short, avoid the extremes!

I think there is something wonderfully humourous about getting our best political/economic advice from a cartoonist!

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