Jefferson on the Moral Prohibition Against Saddling Posterity With Our Debts
Thomas Jefferson's views on government debt can be inserted into the modern debate over deficit spending by the Federal Government as if they were specifically meant for the present "crisis." Jefferson argued that "we act as if we believed" that "the aggregate body of fathers may alienate the labor of all their sons, of their posterity, in the aggregate, and oblige them to pay for all the enterprises, just or unjust, profitable or ruinous, into which our vices, our passions, or our personal interests may lead us." Because "an individual father cannot alienate the labor of his son," Jefferson stated that we are "unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts, and morally bound to pay them ourselves".
[Bergh, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, XIII, 358]
Jefferson's views on federal deficit spending, federal usurpation of state authority, and the expansion of federal executive authority are right to the point in light of modern trends in federal government policy.
“I am not for transferring all the powers of the States to the General Government and all those of that government to the executive branch. I am for a government rigorously frugal and simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt, and not for a multiplication of officers and salaries merely to make partisans, and for increasing, by every device, the public debt on the principle of its being a public blessing.”
[Dumbauld, ed., Jefferson: His Political Writings, 47]
A way to approach straightening out the mess that is occurring in Washington DC is to insist that the Constitution be obeyed. Only state governments, not the federal government, should exercise powers reserved to the states by the Constitution, and only the state governments should tax for those purposes, not the federal government. The federal government has no constitutional power over education or health care because these are clearly reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment. Also, it should be evident that no one can justifiably be taxed by any level of government to pay for the gambling debts and losses due to open speculation by others, whether by individuals speculating in the housing market or corporations speculating in credit default swaps.