August 19, 2009
Since when is a bad debt more sacrosanct than the Bill of Rights?
In an earlier email, M. Simon mentioned Thomas Jefferson's famous remark about a revolution every 20 years, and here is the exact quote:
"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion... We have had thirteen States independent for eleven years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half, for each State. What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion?" --Thomas Jefferson to William S. Smith, 1787. ME 6:372I think the above is consistent with Jefferson's philosophical belief that the dead do not have power to bind the living, which is expounded on by Jefferson in a letter to James Madison a couple of years later:
The question, whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also among the fundamental principles of every government. The course of reflection in which we are immersed here, on the elementary principles of society, has presented this question to my mind; and that no such obligation can be transmitted, I think very capable of proof. -- I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living: that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by any individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society. If the society has formed no rules for the appropriation of its lands in severality, it will be taken by the first occupants, and these will generally be the wife and children of the decedent. If they have formed rules of appropriation, those rules may give it to the wife and children, or to some one of them, or to the legatee of the deceased. So they may give it to its creditor. But the child, the legatee or creditor, takes it, not by natural right, but by a law of the society of which he is a member, and to which he is subject. Then, no man can, by natural right, oblige the lands he occupied, or the persons who succeed him in that occupation, to the payment of debts contracted by him. For if he could, he might during his own life, eat up the usufruct of the lands for several generations to come; and then the lands would belong to the dead, and not to the living, which is the reverse of our principle.Let's turn to a recent news report quoting a congressman on the impending default of the Social Security system:
TUSCALOOSA -- "Social Security could face default within two years," U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus predicted here Tuesday. "The situation is much worse than people realize, especially because of the problems brought on by the recession, near depression.As I've said before, Social Security is a law, and like any other law, it can be changed or repealed as the legislature deems fit.
However, the way some people talk, you'd think Social Security was a form of Holy Writ -- as if we are supposed to bow our heads in respect whenever it is mentioned. Politically, it's considered the "Third Rail" to question it, and unlike any other law, the benefits it confers are spoken of in the most solemn terms -- as "entitlements."
I'd like to pose a Third Rail question. How is it that the biggest Ponzi Scheme on earth, which was put over by the worst human rights violator in U.S. history, has come to be seen in many circles as more sacrosanct than the Bill of Rights? Is it because it represents America's first major founding step towards socialism, so that it is akin to Hallowed Ground -- a sort of Biblical Hill On Which We Must Take Our Stand?
Come on! It's no more holy than a bounced check, and if the money's not there, the money's not there.
We're all familiar with the observation that "the Constitution is not a suicide pact."
I realize that some constitutional die hards might disagree, or at least have qualms with that sentiment. But if we assume for the sake of argument that the Constitution is not a suicide pact, by what standard should Social Security be?
posted by Eric on 08.19.09 at 12:31 PM
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