A Philosopher's Blog

The Debt Ceiling

Posted in Law, Philosophy, Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on July 27, 2011
South façade of the White House, the executive...

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The United States is currently at risk of hitting and then breaking the debt ceiling. While the general consensus among rational people is that this would be rather bad, congress (as I am writing) has yet to settle the matter.

On the one hand, raising the debt ceiling seems to be a no-brainer. After all, doing so has been business as usual and it has been done most often under Republican presidents. More importantly, the consequences of not doing so are supposed to be rather bad-hence it would seem to make sense t0 simply follow the usual process and raise the ceiling.

On the other hand, there are some legitimate concerns about simply raising the debt ceiling. First, the mere fact that it has been done repeatedly in the past is hardly a good reason to do it now. To believe that what is commonly done is right because it is commonly done is, of course, the classic fallacy of appeal to common practice.  To believe that something should be done because it has been done in the past and is thus something of a tradition is, of course, the fallacy of appeal to tradition. That said, it is still reasonable to ask (as a legitimate use of burden of proof) why the established policy should be changed now. This leads to the second point.

Second, think of the national debt as being analogous to a bar tab and Americans as heavy drinkers. Like a regular at a bar, we have simply raised our tab over and over again. However, there seems to come a time (perhaps now) when the barkeep should insist that the tab not increase again and that it be paid off. To insist on just raising the tab and continuing to drink the future is to act, obviously enough, like a selfish and thoughtless drunk. The responsible and correct thing to do is not ask for a bigger tab limit and to pay off the existing debt. Likewise, America needs to sober up, set a reasonable debt ceiling and pay off that debt. After all, we want to be a great nation and not that pathetic drunk in the corner, begging for booze and money.

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  1. […] The Debt Ceiling (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) […]

  2. A J MacDonald Jr said, on July 27, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I think the debt ceiling debate has to do with putting the freshman TEA Party members in their place. Now that the TEA Party has been funneled into a Capitol Hill TEA Party caucus we will see Wall Street and the Washington politicos forcing the new TEA Party freshmen into doing things Washington and Wall Streets way OR ELSE! One can only imagine the threats these freshman are getting from their own party (i.e., Republicans): “Play ball or you will have NO power EVER in this city!” Once these House freshman TEA Party guys knuckle-under to such pressure, which they will, we will witness the official DEATH of the TEA Party.

    • frk said, on July 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm

      The little side-shows make for great entertainment. Who’s willing to pay the admission price? Step right up, folks:


    • frk said, on July 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm

      More from the Fun House–
      Headline: “Boehner rallies GOP to his debt plan. . .”


      I like this part:
      “Republicans have dismissed the inclusion of war savings [in Reid’s plan] as a budget gimmick, arguing that the nation has no intention of spending that money. ”

      In 2000 as Clinton made way for Bush projections were that our debt would be paid off and then some by 2011. In retrospect those predictions were ludicrous. Ten year projections regarding national debt are much less reliable than weather forecasts for this Saturday ( it’s currently Wednesday where I live) And anyone who is a climate-change denier yet believes Republican contentions about US government intentions should go forthwith, purchase a sturdy rope, get a small box to stand on, and hang himself until dead on the nearest light fixture. **##

      Of course, the Democrats’ inclusion of war savings is simplistic. We don’t know where the wars are going. We don’t know who the public will vote into office and whether they will or will not support further actions. We don’t know what other stupefying events , like 9/11. will occur that will change our military course. Fact is, we– Dems, Reps, Indies, etc.–don’t ^know^ diddly about the future , especially about our government. Democratic projections are as likely to be correct as they are to be wrong.

      We’ve had enough laughs now. I say, split the “projected differences” and settle this damn mess.

      **##At least there’s a heap of scientific data behind the climate change theory.

      • frk said, on July 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm

        Fun House Visit 2 (bring cotton candy):


        “‘My ideology drives me, but it doesn’t overrule my ability to think 🙂 #,’ Campbell told his colleagues.
        Despite the momentum building on the Republican side, the conservative Club for Growth issued another warning Thursday morning that it still opposes the Boehner bill and would score the vote as a “key vote” in its ratings for lawmakers up for election. ”

        I’m wondering when Rep. Campbell’s “ability to think” kicked in. Perhaps when Herr Speaker threatened the political futures of those who oppose his plan. Perhaps he balanced the power of the Club for Growth and their election vote-scoring against the force of the Republican machine, looked into his crystal balls l, and regained his “ability to think”. Or not. Personally, I think his “ability to think” ship has sailed.

        And I wonder if the Club for Growth would conveniently forget that “key vote” when push comes to shove –if, for example, Campbell’s continued presence in the House would be deemed important to Club for Growth goals.

        🙂 # Sorry. I can’t help it.

  3. jelillie said, on July 27, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Here’s another analogy. The debt ceiling is supported by walls. Each time the ceiling is raised the walls are lengthened with it. Eventually the walls will extend to a height at which they can no longer support their own weight and will collapse in on themselves regardless of what we do with the ceiling. Raising it then of course will not be an option. Maybe what the current administration is trying to do is just hold the ceiling up long enough to get out of the building before it falls down on top of them.

  4. James Claims said, on July 27, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    While our debt is like a bar tab, there just isn’t really an analogy that adequately describes how national finance really works. Just like there isn’t really a good analogy about how monetary value through fiat works. And as for the revision of our treasury bonds, this is not really something that can actually happen since pretty much all securities are based off of the security of us treasury bonds. So a revision of the treasury bonds is a revision of all other bonds. The US is quite awkwardly too big to fail in a way that not even businesses can be, so there isn’t much of an analogy that can be drawn to the US economy because of the uniqueness of its existence.

    So I guess the idea is that yes, we’re doing things wrong and we need to fix them, but armageddon is not looming, and arguments by analogy are pretty much all going to be bad and overly simplistic since there isn’t anything even closely analogous to the US economy.

  5. […] The Debt Ceiling (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) […]

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