The source of endless confusion is the tendency to treat abstractions as if they were thinking, deciding human beings. In this case, the abstraction is the nation, and Fareed Zakaria treats it as though it had chosen to consume too much and save too little. Don Boudreaux’s reply to Zakaria is savory:

Editor, Washington Post
1150 15th St., NW
Washington, DC 20071

Dear Editor:

Fareed Zakaria writes that “The basic problem in the U.S. economy is that for a generation now, we have been consuming more and saving and investing less” (“Procrastination economics,” Dec. 13).

Who’s “we”? I haven’t consumed more than I’ve earned. But being an American, I get confusingly lumped in with a a group of people who DO spend wildly: a majority of elected U.S. government officials. They spend wildly because they spend other people’s money.

Suppose local mafia goons, confident in their on-going ability to extract wealth from shop owners and residents in their neighborhood, borrow without hesitation to finance their and their pals’ lavish lifestyles. Would anyone issue a blanket condemnation of the neighborhood, accusing its denizens of profligacy?

The fact that the mafiosos who “protect” us win their positions through
elections – meaning, they buy their offices with other people’s money – does not to alter the fact that A is not irresponsible just because B borrows from C in order to give to D, with the bill for repayment handed in the future to A and to A Jr.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University