WASHINGTON, October 16, 2013 — It is usual for conservatives to point to the social issues as having spiritual import, as having spiritual causes, and moral effects. But we often completely ignore the spiritual elements of our spending addiction.
In fact, the only thing that can remotely compare to the phenomenon of abortion — in which a person is so depraved that, rather than accepting the consequences of sex, she must kill another human — is this spending addiction. We are so lustful after our spending that we are killing our children, and our children’s children. Money that is borrowed is ultimately borrowed from them, and our dessert today is really a dinner taken from them.
Conservatives have written many good books about how the welfare state softens the soul and weakens the will of a people. But it takes a very soft soul, and a very weak will, to get a welfare state in the first place.
Plato wondered whether there is not some analogy between a soul and a state: Can a well-ordered soul be likened to a well-ordered state? He spent hundreds of pages inquiring into the ideal state, in order to seek the ideal soul. Let us imagine that there is such an analogy.
Imagine a person whose budget has a structural deficit like ours — that is, a deficit that is not the result of the occasional splurge, but of constant “mandatory” spending. Imagine that he makes the kind of promises that we have made, promises that he will never be able to keep — outright lies. This is not just folly; it is corruption. It is evil.
He has the highest income and, simultaneously, the highest debt, of anyone in the entire world. This man, Uncle Sam, also can’t control who enters and leaves his house. Can we really say that he owns the house?
Imagine also that, every two years, he has a checkup with an accountant, who keeps telling him that he must stop, but he keeps firing his accountants, and calling them “obstructionist” for obstructing his crazed spending. Between the doctor and the pusher, the addict chooses the pusher every time.
We cannot say that we are ignorant. We, like smokers, like binge eaters, like drug abusers, know full well the consequences of our behavior. We have seen it in others, and we will soon see it in ourselves. The first cigarette doesn’t kill, nor the second; death by smoking comes gradually, but the damage cannot be undone.
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