A Debt to Posterity
Posterity is a word not as often spoken today as it was at the time of the founding of the United States of America. Posterity, meaning future generations, was very much on the minds of the founding generation. While the founders were certainly concerned with the situation in their time as evidenced by the Declaration of Independence, they sought in their wisdom to establish a Republic that would benefit their posterity as much as themselves. Thomas Paine, speaking of the Articles of Confederation in his pamphlet Common Sense in 1776, writes:
“As parents, we can have no joy, knowing that this government is not sufficiently lasting to ensure any thing which we may bequeath to posterity: And by a plain method of argument, as we are running the next generation into debt, we ought to do the work of it, otherwise we use them meanly and pitifully. In order to discover the line of our duty rightly, we should take our children in our hand, and fix our station a few years farther into life; that eminence will present a prospect, which a few present fears and prejudices conceal from our sight.”
His admonishment to look to the future would serve the United States as well today, if only the leaders would set aside their “few present fears and prejudices” and look to the future and not just the present. Their obsession with sixty second sound bites and special advantage rather than a true sense of the nation’s needs at present and in the future has brought the United States to the sorry condition of today. The representatives of the American People in seeking to please their party base neither represent nor serve the American People. They represent and serve their party and its special interests and in doing so have amassed a debt that will take many successive generations to pay.
Those yet unborn generations have already been used “meanly and pitifully” as they will be saddled with debt to pay for the follies of this generation. The American People can not just hope for the light of Freedom to stay lit. It must be tended to if it is to shine brightly for posterity. Can the generations to come be Free if burdened with debt and beholding to the lenders of generations past? For as Thomas Paine also wrote in Common Sense, “When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.” But alas, today’s debt can certainly be passed to Posterity.