Borrowing money for capital investments isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but the payoff should be obvious and risk needs to be carefully assessed. What is the worse case scenario, and how likely is it? Can we afford the loss?
Borrowing money for luxuries is just dumb. If we have to borrow money for a luxury, by definition we can’t afford it. Yet the people we elect borrow money our name to pay for luxuries all the time. Therefore, our nation risks inflation or going broke.
How can we solve this problem? How can we stop our government from borrowing so much money needlessly? We can elect local politicians who understand the need for fiscal restraint. Then we can encourage local politicians who have demonstrated a commitment to fiscal restraint to run for state and federal offices.
Where can the good citizens of Prince William County start? Our Board of Supervisors is considering borrowing $600 million for parks and roads. Here is some information from the county’s website.
Is the bond referendum a good idea? What does our local pundit/journalist class think?
- EDITORIAL: Luxuries don’t belong in Prince William bond package and Around Prince William: Bond Choices — It’s Our Money (31 May, insidenova.com): Here are some opinion pieces. The opinion is that the sports complex is a luxury, but the roads are needed.
- Town hall on bond projects attracts crew, track supporters — and a few naysayers (28 May, princewilliamtimes.com): The title summarizes the article.
- Road concerns draw residents to bond town hall in Prince William County (23 May, insidenova.com): Lot of talk about the park bond, but, as the title suggests, the road bond is more popular.
- Supporters call proposed $84M sports complex a ‘game-changer’ for Prince William County (insidenova.com): Some people do want that sports complex.
- Supervisors mull $600 million bond issue for new parks, road projects (8 May, princewilliamtimes.com): Here is a little background. Corey Stewart is the member on the Board of Supervisors who is pushing the bond referendum.
Surprisingly, there has not been more news coverage. One would think $600 million in local spending would interest people. However, our government spends so much of our money that even $600 million in spending does not garner much attention, except from those people who see something in that spending they want personally. This observation points to the fundamental problem with government spending. When we spend our own money on ourselves, we each tend to be careful to get what we want for the lowest possible price. On the other hand, because politicians spend other people’s money on other people, too often their priority is maximizing their influence with their cronies and their donor base. Whether they waste taxpayer money or actually get exactly what people need is not always their greatest concern.
This is why it is not a good idea to just give politicians our money and let them spend it. When it is practical for us to buy things we want with our own money — when we want those things badly enough — it is far less expensive for us to pay the bill ourselves. When we allow our leaders to spend other people’s money on other people, we give our leaders an incentive to spend our money to buy votes. Furthermore, we give our leaders a tool for using our money to reward their cronies, including their donors. That’s why government redistribution of the wealth — any form of it, even making people pay for roads they don’t use — is problematic. If we don’t want to violate each other’s rights, we must minimize the use of government power.
So is this bond referendum a good idea? What are the pros and cons? To ascertain the pros, we just have to review the long list of items the county promises to buy. How badly do we need these things? How long can we afford to wait?
What about the cons?
- The November 5, 2019 ballot is already going to be extremely busy. We will each have the opportunity to vote for candidates for nine different offices. Nine different offices. Is this a good election to add a complex bond referendum? No.
- An $84 million indoor track complex? Seriously?
- The state is responsible for road construction. Why is necessary for Prince William County to spend so much? Which of these roads are for developers. Which are needed by desperate commuters?
- Has the county investigated options for making the people who want these things (including the roads) pay for them? If an $84 million indoor track complex is such a wonderful idea, why don’t the people who intend to use it pay for it? If there is such a huge demand an $84 million indoor track complex, where are the private interests who would build it and charge people for using it? Why are people at one end of the county paying for roads at the other end of the county?
- Counties in Northern Virginia are notorious for building “parkways” and then cluttering those “parkways” with stoplights for new developments. Hence, in spite of all the construction, we still have few expressways in Northern Virginia. That indicates the “system” is not working the way we want it to work. We have broken the connection between supply and demand. Because we are just giving our money to politicians to spend as they wish, we are not building the kind of roads commuters need where they need them. Until we fix this problem, we risk throwing good money after bad.
So should we put that $600 million bond referendum on the ballot this November and vote for it? Well, we will not take a position here for several reasons.
- The PWMFA does not generally take a position on such things.
- The Board of County Supervisors is still working on the matter. We can only guess what, if anything, will actually be put on the ballot.
- The point of this post is to inform voters, to encourage citizens to take part in politics. When our leaders borrow money in our name, they make us and our children responsible for paying off the debts of others, whether we think the purchases they make appropriate or not. They make us slaves to debt. If we don’t push back, we and our children will be enslaved.
What does the Bible say about debt? Contrary to what some say, borrowing is not sinful, but the Bible does not encourage it. Here are several references.
- What do the Scriptures say about people who find themselves owing a lot of money? Like most of our friends, my husband and I are carrying a certain amount of debt. Does this place us completely outside the will of God? (focusonthefamily.com)
- What does the Bible say about going into debt? (gotquestions.org)
- What Does the Bible Say about Lending and Borrowing? (crosswalk.com)
Note that these references that deal with borrowing as a personal matter. When politicians borrow money in our name, that makes each of us responsible for paying off the debt. However, debt does have national consequences.
Deuteronomy 15:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
6 For the Lord your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.
When we borrow to excess, that is not a good sign. The Bible teaches us that when the people of Israel put their faith in God they were able to rule themselves. They could rule themselves because they allowed God to rule over them.