"Neither a borrower nor lender be for loan oft loses both itself and friend and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all, to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day thou canst not then be false to any man," William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3.
Today is Ash Wednesday, which for Christians, marks the beginning of a 40-day penitential season during which we recall the sins of the past year and seek to make amends for our offenses by self-mortification and a determination to reform our lives.
That's our personal Ash Wednesday, but this year America is in the midst of enduring the onset of an undetermined national penitential period during which we will pay a dear price for our past offenses against common sense and self-restraint.
For a long time, as a nation and as individuals, we wallowed in an orgy of debt, satisfying our lust for instant gratification, ignoring Shakespeare's warning and generations to come will now face years of paying the piper for our self-indulgence.
Incredibly, our national leadership is seeking to ameliorate a crisis rooted in debt by incurring new and greater amounts of debt, most of which will be repaid by our children and their offspring. Already we have piled trillions of dollars of debt on their shoulders and there is no end in sight to this spending of money we don't have and must therefore borrow.
But that's just the half of it. On Monday we saw a series of conferences during which a confederacy of dunces — the very people who are responsible for the policies that created the crisis to begin with — came together in the White House to devise new government programs and policies to address the crisis caused by their own meddling with the nation's economy.
Let's be clear about this. I didn't cause this crisis; you didn't cause this crisis. The crisis was caused solely by the federal government. You and I simply went along, following Uncle Sam's example of mortgaging the future in order to enjoy the fruits of the labor of future generations.
You cannot solve what is essentially a debt crisis by going deeper into debt. Yet debt is the engine that drives the welfare state to which we have become so fatally enamored that we cannot abandon it and learn to pay as we go both as a nation and as individuals.
In a mere 200 years, following a stern policy of encouraging individual initiative untrammeled by the fetters of Big Brother government, these United States rose from being largely a society rooted in rural husbandry to heights undreamt of in all the world's history.
The Constitution enshrined the individual and sought to restrain government from doing what governments do naturally — restrain the God-given rights of the citizenry. Somewhere along the line we allowed a reversal of that policy.
The idea that a free people left to their own devices and those of their government under a compact that safeguards their freedom and the freedoms of their fellow citizens will best determine their destiny slowly eroded. Government ceased to recognize the sovereignty of the individual American and was allowed to become master instead of servant of the people.
Today, instead of being seen for what it is, the deadly hand of government action is viewed as the sole means of guaranteeing the welfare of the citizenry. When a crisis happens, even though it be the result of the government's own actions, we look to that same government for a solution.
And that solution is always more of the same. Borrow and spend.
Instead of loosening the enormous power of our free-enterprise system, we bind it even tighter. Small business, the creator of the greatest number of jobs, now reeling under the burden of excessive taxation and regulation, is to be taxed and regulated even more, despite the obvious fact that lower tax rates and less regulation are the secret of national prosperity.
As David Galland, managing director of the Casey report has written: "The way the current mess will actually get cleaned up is through the adoption of measures that support, or at least don't hinder, entrepreneurs running or starting businesses and expanding into new markets. What we have instead is yet another experiment in more government."
That's the crux of the matter. We ignore that advice at our peril.
Phil Brennan writes for Newsmax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist (Cato) for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He is a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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