For instance, given that the debt represents an existential threat to the last best hope of earth, how should we save ourselves? Is our best course to bring government spending down or to bring government revenues up?
Now the truth is that the situation is so dire that both entitlement and tax reform are sure to come either before our collapse or directly after it. Still, it’s helpful to know what target we’re ultimately trying to hit. Are we aiming for smaller government through spending cuts or for more taxes to pay for bigger government?
And it seems to me that in order to know where you stand on that question, you need to answer another question first: Are you an adult or a child?
No, really. If you are a child, then the government might seem to you like a parent. It needs to be big and strong in order to take care of you and pay for all your needs and emergencies. If you are an adult, you might view the government more like one of your offspring: someone who has a limited number of chores to do and should be given a small allowance by way of payment for those chores.
If you are an adult, you know freedom entails responsibility. You expect to be able to make whatever choices you deem proper, as long as they don’t directly injure anyone else, but if you choose poorly, you understand you have to suffer the consequences. Even if you find yourself in need, you want others to help you in freely chosen charity, not by force.
A child, on the other hand, wants total freedom — and then comes crying to Mommy when it gets him in trouble. He wants to drive the car, but wants Daddy to pay for the body work. He wants to have whatever sort of sex tickles him, but expects the ‘rents to pick up the bill for his diseases and abortions. A child is always either strutting about demanding his rights, or sobbing pitifully for help and comfort. (See, for example, the folks at the Occupy rallies, boldly breaking the law and then shrieking about being arrested.)
An adult can make do with courage, family, friends and neighbors. A child requires an all-powerful caretaker.
So… should we cut spending or raise taxes? Well, are we adults or children? Figure out the answer to the second question, and you’ll know the answer to the first.
NOTE: If you’d like to see my nominee for best political essay of the year, check out this one (“On Tyranny and Liberty”) by the incomparable Myron Magnet at City Journal. So succinct, eloquent and erudite, it’s like mainlining a 400 page book in fifteen minutes. You’ll be a lot smarter when you finish it than you were when you began it.