In the long run, we are all immoralists

John Maynard Keynes, patron saint of the government stimulus, called himself an “immoralist.”  He felt indifferent between right and wrong.  Also, he never had children.  When he made his famous statement, “In the long run, we are all dead,” Keynes spoke as one with no stake in the happiness of the human race, once he had departed from it.

Which is something we should keep in mind while reflecting on the chart below, showing the trend lines for federal spending and revenues through the year 2040, from The Economist’s article on “The backlash against big government.”

Morality concerns the impact of our actions on others.  It has no timeframe, no expiration date.  If I care in the least for my family, and friends, and the people in my community, I will organize my actions so that I can pursue my ends without destroying theirs.  I won’t borrow what I can’t repay; I won’t sneak away when the bill comes due, even to the grave.

If, however, I’m an immoralist, in the style of Keynes and the current policy of the US government, and the whole despicable generation of Baby Boomers, I will happily crush my children’s lives so that I may enjoy mine to the fullest.

The worst thing about that chart?  I feel complicit in it.  We are all immoralists now.

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7 Responses to In the long run, we are all immoralists

  1. Adam says:

    To put a positive spin on this, just remember: that chart is projected spending and revenue. I promise you that their projections will be wrong one way or another, as they pretty much always are.

    • I agree. But it’s frightening to think they might be wrong on the conservative side…

      • Adam says:

        It is frightening, but I think there’s also some reason to think that they’re being overly pessimistic. The latest estimate of Q4 2009 indicates that we’ve had two quarters of positive economic growth in a row, with the latest being at a fairly fast rate. The majority of the stimulus money has not been spent yet; I suspect it will get harder and harder to appropriate it as the economic situation improves. So the recovery may moderate this trend, at least somewhat.

        That’s my hope, anyway! And the political wind seems to be finally blowing in the other direction.

  2. Stephen Kriz says:

    What is immoral is the squandering of resources on war and killing innocent human beings. The Pentagon is the REAL BIG GOVERNMENT. If you knew anything about the federal budget, you would know that the so-called “Defense Department”‘s budget was bigger than every other federal agency combined. Our only real enemy, al-Qaeda, consists of less than a thousand men and doesn’t even own a rowboat, as far as I can tell. Yet, you seem to be fine with pissing away billions on aircraft carriers and stealth bombers and slaughtering thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some moralist.

  3. Brutus says:

    Complicit? We’re all immoralists? Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. I’m also American by the incident of my birth, and having lived here all my life, share in some portion of the American dream and contributed to many of our society’s failures. But I’ve grown to be a more independent thinker and repudiated a lot of what the masses believe is their birthright. They’re buoyed by centuries of examples of Americans pursuing their own happiness through enlightened self-interest but with serious blinders as to the true consequences of those pursuits, even though the consequences are delayed in time. It seems that as a society, without fully realizing it, we’ve determined that tonight we will make merry because tomorrow we must surely die.

    • Hey Brutus. Well, you must move among a different crowd than I do – the people I see work hard, pay their bills, and spend most of their free hours shepherding their kids. It’s the disconnect between them (whom, right or wrong, I would like to think as typical of the electorate) and our monstrous federal debt that I find unsettling.

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