Given that so many Americans continue to express gratitude to the troops for their forever service in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere, it would be worthwhile to revisit the immortal words of James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
When I was college student, I heard of something called the Thirty Years War, which took place in Europe in the 17th century. I was incredulous. How in the world could a war actually last 30 years?
I’m not incredulous anymore. The Pentagon’s and CIA’s war in Iraq has now been going on for 27 years and their war Afghanistan for 16 years, with no end in sight for either one. Moreover, their wars have expanded to Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and other parts of the Middle East. If Pentagon and CIA officials get their way, there might even be another one in Korea. Maybe Iran too. Perhaps Russia or China also.
All of this forever warfare has certainly given rise to a vast, permanent, and ever-growing military establishment (or vice versa), as Madison said it would, and to what another president, Dwight Eisenhower, called the “military-industrial complex.”
Combined with America’s ever-burgeoning welfare state, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, federal spending continues to spiral out of control. That’s means debts and taxes, as Madison pointed out. The federal government’s debt is now $20 trillion. Each taxpayer’s share of that debt is $165,000. To get a sense of the dangers of excessive government debt, consider the fact that the Puerto Rican government has just filed for bankruptcy owing to excessive debt.
Many Americans, especially young people, are having a difficult time making ends meet. Many young people are still living at home in their late 20s and 30s. Hardly anyone saves any money. Yet, savings in a society are the key to capital, productivity, and rising standards of living. Even if the government lowers taxes, it doesn’t reduce spending, which only means that people will owe more money as part of their share of the government’s debt.