Principle 27 Debt is Destructive

The Burden of Debt is as destructive to Freedom as Subjugation by Conquest

"We encourage you wherever you may live in the world to prepare for adversity by looking to the condition of your finances. We urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt. . . . If you have paid your debts and have a financial reserve, even though it be small, you and your family will feel more secure and enjoy greater peace in your hearts."
—The First Presidency, All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances, Feb. 2007, 1 

President N. Eldon Tanner taught: "Those who structure their standard of living to allow a little surplus, control their circumstances. Those who spend a little more than they earn are controlled by their circumstances. They are in bondage” ("Constancy Amid Change," Ensign, Nov. 1979, 81).  

Slavery is the result of either Subjugation by conquest or succumbing to the bondage of debt.   Debt is when you borrow against the future.  You get a present advantage for a future obligation.  Not only do you have to pay your debt back that you borrowed, but interest on top of that as well.

The Founders knew that borrowing can be an honorable procedure in a time of crisis, but they still deplored it just the same.  They looked at it as a temporary handicap that should be alleviated as soon as possible.  They had enough experiences with debt to now the effects that it can have; leading to the corruption of both individuals and nations.

With the individual excessive debt limits the liberty and freedom of the debtor.  It can be depressing.  They can be afraid to change their profession, pass up financial opportunities, which a free man might risk.  Heavy debt taints an individual's happiness.  They carry a perpetual burden every waking hour.  They seem to feel a sense of also being perpetually threatened as they 'ride the razor's edge of potential disaster'.  There is also the looming feeling of waste, like a man that is making payments on a dead horse.  This results from spending money on wants or even needs that have long since past.  It means sleepless nights, a burden of grinding weight on your shoulders that increases with every tick of the clock, and often at usurious rates.

The age of the Founders was a time when debt was recognized for what it really is.  They considered frugality a virtue, and even when an emergency came up and they needed to borrow, they believed in borrowing frugally and paying it back promptly.  

Thomas Jefferson said, "The maxim of buying nothing without the money in our pockets to pay for it would make our country one of the happiest on earth.  Experience during the war proved this, and I think every man will remember that, under all the privations it obliged him to submit to during that period, he slept sounder and awoke happier than he can do now."

The Founder felt that the worst kind of debt is that which results from splurge borrowing, going into debt to enjoy temporary luxury of extravagantly living "beyond ones means."  They also knew how this behavior could be a snare to those that are watching others do this.  However, all the illusions of debt-financed prosperity disappear rapidly when it comes time to really pay for them.  The results are often bankruptcy, abject poverty, and even gnawing hunger from the lack of the most basic necessities of life.  Just like the Prodigal son that would have filled his belly with the husks that the pigs ate. (Luke 15:16)

The Founders believed that debt should be abhorred like the plague.  They saw excessive indebtedness as a form of a cultural disease.  Benjamin Franklin said, "Think what you do when you run in debt; you give to another the power over your liberty."

The Founders believed that the debts of a nation are no different than the debts of an individual.  The fact that this debt is shared by the whole of the people does not make it less of a burden.  While they knew that in a case like war, the nation may need to borrow, they still believed that the nation should get out of debt as quickly as possible in order to enjoy complete solvency and prosper.  Thomas Jefferson said, "I, however, place economy among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared."

When it comes to passing on the debts of one generation to the next, the Founders had a very clear viewpoint.  The generation that created the debt should pay for it so that the next generation would be truly free politically and economically.  It was their belief that passing their debts onto their children would mean that they were born into bondage or involuntary servitude, that they did not vote for nor subscribe to.  They stated that it would be in the very literal sense taxation without representation and a blatant violation of a fundamental republican principle.  Jefferson considered inherited debt to be immoral.

It is very clear with the nation that we live in today, that we are sending the next generations inheritance, if not two generations or more!  There is no way that the amount of debt that we have can be liquidated.  In addition to this fact, we are also committed to pay for additional future liabilities!  

Can we return to the Founders Formula?  Only if the people awaken to the situation and they determine to go through fiscal withdrawal and kick the habit of splurge spending.  The author, W. Cleon Skousen, of The 5000 Year Leap states that he has a proposal that is in the book entitled "The Healing of the Nation."  While there was the possibility at the time that the author wrote this book, I do have to wonder myself if it is still possible in this day.  His plan avoided a very deep depression, which I think that we are going to head into one no matter what now.  There seems to be no repentance option left, except for the painful one.  We have been told in the scriptures, that if we will not humble ourselves, we will be compelled to be humble, perhaps, that is what it will take for our nation to repent of the excessive debt that we all now find ourselves in.

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