to distinguish between private borrowingrnand public borrowing: they think the issuernis whether the annual income streamrn(tax revenues) is able to support the annualrninterest cost. But the real issue isrnwhether a $450 billion annual charge—rnwith no return—is socially and politicallyrnsustainable. Does anyone think a 20-rnyear-old earning $10 an hour, or $20,000rna year, can afford to pay $4,234 in federalrnand state income tax and Social Securityrntax? That amount, invested eachrnyear for 45 years at seven percent interest,rnwould give a nest egg of $1,268,000. Thernpresent value of all the Social Securityrnbenefits he will receive, starting in 2041,rnassuming the system still exists, is anrnunimpressive $12,400. The presentrnvalue of health benefits he will receivernis $25,800, and of welfare benefits,rn$20,500. The difference betweenrn$59,700—the present value of all thernbenefits he will ever receive—andrn$1,268,000 is a very expensive governmentrnfor someone making $ 10 an hour.rnCan a government survive when sornmany resources are allocated to pay forrninherited liabilities? Can a moral, orderlyrnsociety survive if it does? The debt,rnbecause of doubts on both scores, destroysrnthe value of the currency. The fearrnis that history will probably repeat itself,rnand the country will stoke up inflation tornreduce the effective burden of an unsupportablerndebt. Inflation may stay withinrnbounds, as it has, barely, for the past 20rnyears. Or it may run out of control andrndestroy the currency as it did in WeimarrnGermany in 1923. The Weimar inflationrndestroyed the middle class, the basisrnof any democracy, and made way forrnHitler. Either way, when the currency’srnvalue is unpredictable, individuals can’trnplan for a child’s education, businessrncannot look very far ahead, and therncountry is disoriented.rnJefferson, in a September 6, 1789, letterrnto James Madison, said he thought itrnself-evident “that the earth belongs inrnusufruct [trust] to the living, that therndead have neither powers nor rights overrnit.” In 1823, Jefferson wrote to ThomasrnEarie, “That our Creator made the earthrnfor the use of the living and not of therndead; that those who exist not can havernno use nor right in it, no authority orrnpower over it; that one generation ofrnmen cannot foreclose or burden its usernto another, which comes to it in its ownrnright and by the same divine beneficence;rnthat a preceding generation cannotrnbind a succeeding one by its laws orrncontracts.” The current generation, inrnother words, holds the land as a life tenantrndoes; he is entitled to cultivate thernland and enjoy the fruits of it, but herncan’t hurt the interest of those who are torncome after. He should turn the land overrnin the same condition he received it.rnEach generation is the steward for thernearth during its lifetime.rnAssume, Jefferson wrote, that LouisrnXV borrowed so much from the bankersrnof Genoa that the interest on the debtrncame to equal the whole annual netrnprofit of France: “Should the presentrngeneration of Frenchmen deed theirrnproperty to the Genoese creditors andrnleave their homeland? No. They havernthe same rights over the soil on whichrnthey were produced, as the precedingrngeneration had. They derive these rightsrnnot from their predecessors, but from nature.”rnNo generation, by natural right,rncan oblige the next generation to pay itsrndebts. If it could, it might, during itsrnown time, “eat up the usufruct of thernlands for several generations to come,rnand then the land would belong to therndead, and not to the living.”rnJefferson concluded that it would bern”wise and just” for the Constitution torndeclare that “neither the legislature, norrnthe nation itself, can validly contractrnmore debt than they may pay withinrntheir own age, or within the term of 19rnyears.” Not all borrowing, of course,rnleads to wasteful spending debt. Debtrnmay be invested in beneficial infrastructure.rnThe 1846 New York ConstitutionalrnConvention, applying Jeffersonian principles,rnprovided that the state could contractrnno debt except by a law approved byrna referendum. The debt, however, hadrnto be for a single “work or object” and bernaccompanied by a new tax sufficient tornpay interest and retire the debt within 18rnyears. Or the debt may be invested to acquirernintangible assets—which the societyrnconsiders beneficial—such as Pitt’srnNapoleonic Wars and our World War IIrnand Cold War. But, because of the absencernof checks, spending is far morernlikely to be wasteful when borrowing isrnpermitted. If a country runs on a pay-asyou-rngo basis, whatever mistakes it makesrnwill be paid for by those who made thernmistakes.rnMoreover, the requirement of immediaternpayment for gox’crnment programsrnacts as an efficient brake on governmentalrnenthusiasm. Debt, since it requiresrnno immediate taxes, removes the fundamentalrnlimitation that to fund a programrnfor the benefit of one group, the moneyrnhas to be taken from a different group.rnUnder pay-as-you-go, the payers mustrncurrently pay what the payees will currentlyrnreceive. The payers are apt to resistrn—the issue must be discussed—andrnsome compromise reached.rnWith a borrowing policy, as Jeffersonrnsaw, the rules are entirely different. Thernconsent of the governed is not necessary.rnThe executive proposes a program butrnnow he meets no effective opposition,rnsince the legislature is equally happy tornspend money today that will have to bernrepaid by future taxpayers. The viciousnessrnof the borrowing policy is that therntaxpayer of tomorrow is not representedrnby any of the parties at the table. Thernburden is easily cast upon the unrepresentedrnfuture. Programs can go forwardrnthat the current taxpayers are unwillingrnto pay for. Unpopular programs—suchrnas the Vietnam War, the Great Society,rnand the Savings and Loan bailout—canrnmove ahead. Of course, when programsrngo ahead without the consent of the governed,rnthey are likely to tear the countryrnapart.rnJefferson believed that the debt-makingrnpower was too dangerous for the federalrngovernment. Since it could not bernsafely limited, it had to be prohibited.rnJefferson wrote to John Taylor, onrnNovember 26, 1798: “I wish it were possiblernto obtain a single amendment tornour Constitution. I would be willing torndepend on that alone for the reductionrnof the administration of our governmentrnof the genuine principles of its Constitution:rnI mean an additional article, takingrnfrom the federal government the power ofrnborrowing.” (Emphasis added.)rnJefferson said in 1816 that the people,rn”not the rich, are our dependence forrncontinued freedom. And to preserverntheir independence, we must not let ourrnleaders load us with perpetual debt.” Ifrnthe leaders load us with such debt, wernwill then be taxed “in our meat and inrnour drink” till we must, like the English,rnlive on “oatmeal and potatoes; have norntime to think, no means of calling thernmismanagers to account; but be glad tornobtain subsistence by hiring ourselves tornrivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-rnsufferers.” We will, at that point,rn”have no sensibilities left but for sinningrnand suffering. Then begins, indeed, thernwar of all against all.”rnWilliam ]. Quirk is a professor at the Universityrnof South Carolina School of Law.rn48/CHRONICLESrnrnrn