Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Danger of National Debt

According to the website, the national debt for the United States is $12.3 trillion and the unfunded liabilities totals $107.08 trillion.

The 20 January 2010 evening headline of Drudge Report states that the Democratic Party may raise the official government debt ceiling by another $1.9 trillion, surpassing $14 trillion.

In 1788, the Anti-Federalists debated the merits of the Constitution. One problem that they foreshadowed was the limitless amount of power granted the Congress to borrow money upon the credit of the United States (Article 1, Section 8).

In a letter titled "Brutus," the seventh work of that series, the author warned of the danger posed by a national debt that couldn't be repaid.

Brutus wrote: "The power to borrow money is general and unlimited...Under this authority, the Congress may mortgage any or all the revenues of the union, as a fund to loan money upon, and it is probable, in this way, they may borrow of foreign nations, a principal sum, the interest of which will be equal to the annual revenues of the country.--By this means, they may create a national debt, so large, as to exceed the ability of the country ever to sink."

Brutus understood that in times of emergency, it may be necessary to borrow money, but it must be under the most extreme of circumstances. Brutus said, "It may possibly happen that the safety and welfare of the country may require, that money be borrowed, and it is proper when such a necessity arises that the power should be exercised by the general government.--But it certainly ought never to be exercised, but on the most urgent occasion."

Brutus recommended that the Constitution include a provision that restricted the power of Congress to perform the aforementioned borrowing. "The constitution should therefore have so restricted, the exercise of this power as to have rendedred it very difficult for the government to practise it. The present confederation requires the assent of nine states to exercise this..."

Brutus summarized this unchecked power by stating "that the general government have unlimitted authority and controul over all the wealth and all the force of the union."

Today, America finds itself at a crossroads. We have a budget deficit that is not contained. We have unfunded liabilities that dwarf the immense budget deficit. We have a national debt that has almost no prospect of ever being sunk. The Anti-Federalists, although they have been marginalized and forgotten by today's school text books, passionately believed in liberty and foretold of the potential abuse of power capable in the Constitution.

America can heed the warning from Brutus and retire the debt and ensure that the government cannot create a large debt again in the future. Or America can continue to drive itself further into debt, a debt that it may never recover from, and jeopardize the security and financial well-being of future citizens.


  1. who was Brutus? as I am not familiar with the writings. give me a link or citation. I love the historical relevance to the two time periods and situations. good stuff. Funny how we were both looking at debt stats and working on similar topics.

  2. Brutus is a series of letters written during the ratification debates. As far as I know, there is no specific author that penned them. I stumbled upon the works in a book from Library of America that contains them. I also found them doing a Google search of Brutus number 6 or 7 and anti-federalist. I'm glad that you like them.

  3. is the website where all of the papers are stored. Also included are other papers and speeches by the likes of Patrick Henry.

  4. We need the peoples "Brutus" to return and ironically say "Et tu, Brute?" to the betrayal of our government.