Acton Institute Powerblog

Our National Debt is a Loan from Future Generations

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Why do democracies struggle with debt? One reason, as John Coleman notes, is that one of the problems is that debt is essentially an intergenerational wealth transfer:

Debt can often be seen, essentially, a loan from future generations to the current generation. In a democracy, some of the least represented individuals are the young or those from future generations. Young people vote less. They donate and volunteer less. And their concerns — 20, 30, or 40 years in the future — seem distant to voters and politicians concerned with two-year election cycles and short-term economic desires. Therefore, it’s easy for current voters to rationalize spending without worrying too much about the implications for those who will have to repay it and for politicians to pay attention to those who vote, volunteer, and donate more regularly. As economists W. Mark Crain and Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. note, voters regularly prefer deficit spending to pay for benefits rather than taxes, and this can lead to the perennial deficit problem experienced by many democracies.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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