Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The (Moral) State of the Union

As an ethicist, I would have a hard time defending the practice of living off of somebody else's bank account without their consent while, at the same time, trashing their home.

That's America for you - or the America of 2011.

$14,000,000,000,000 in debt. That is $14 trillion in spending out of other people's bank account - the bank accounts of people who are, today, young children or not even born yet.

These are not taxes that we have decided to approve for ourselves. It is one thing for us to say that, as a nation, we agree to tax ourselves a huge amount of money and spend it on these government programs.

This is a decision to spend money on government programs - and to send the bill to somebody else. That "somebody else" did not give us permission to spend their money. We simply decided to send them a bill . . . like it or not . . . denying them the opportunity to enjoy the money they earned, because we already spent it.

In the State of the Union message, we will likely hear a lot about "investing" money in this or that project. Well, when a person who has a massive debt goes in for financial counseling, their advisor will tell them that the first "investment" they need to make is to pay off their debt. That gets them out from under the interest they have been paying, which in turn frees up income to pay off more debt, to get out from under even more interest.

Then there's the part about trashing our neighbor's home . . . our children's home . . . while we go about spending all of their money.

Environmental regulations are not regulations of the type that tell you what color you must paint your house and what insurance companies have to offer insurance for. They are regulations of the type that prohibit one neighbor from torching another neighbor's barn or spiking his drink with potassium cyanide. They are prohibitions against killing and poisoning other people and destroying their property.

People who oppose these regulations (at least those that have solid scientific support for the claim that the do cause death, illness, and the destruction of property) are simply demanding the "right" to pursue profits and personal gain over the bodies and destroyed homes of others.

There is solid evidence that the greenhouse gas emissions of today are going to do trillions of dollars worth of damage to the property of future generations. It's going to kill some of them off through the spread of disease and through heat stress. It's going to destroy their crops and flood their homes and businesses.

So, while we are sending a $14 trillion dollar bill to future generations in order to pay for what we enjoy, we are also going to do trillions of dollars worth of damage to their homes and, in the process, kill a few of them off for good measure.

That doesn't sound like the type of person I can recommend as a good neighbor - even a neighbor in time.

Well, that's America for you. That is the current state of the union, in moral terms.

1 comment:

Doug S. said...

Government debt isn't like private debt, and it also has some weird macroeconomic effects. In our financial system, most money is created when banks lend money, and when that money is repaid, it's effectively destroyed. If the U.S. government actually paid off its debt, a large portion of the money supply would vanish. So the fact that the U.S. government is 14 trillion dollars in debt has other meanings besides "someday we'll have to start paying it back".