The late historian Barbara Tuchman, in her work The March of Folly, chronicles how governments throughout history have regularly and repeatedly pursued policies contrary to their self-interest. Looking as far back as the ancient Trojans, who imprudently took the wooden horse within their walls, through the Vietnam War, Tuchman shows how nations persist in pursuing self-defeating policies. She suggests governments do this even when those policies are known to be counterproductive and when a feasible alternative course of action is available. Tuchman notes that this happens when “wooden-headedness” and self-deception play a significant role in government.
For the United States in the 21st century, folly has taken two forms. First, it manifests in the Trojan horse of decades-long economic capitulation and submission to the Chinese Communist Party’s geo-economic agenda. This is finally changing, but only after the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in intellectual property through technology transfer and outright theft. The second form of folly is the slow draining of our financial might and future flexibility through the accumulation of massive and unprecedented amounts of government debt. It is this second folly to which we now turn.
The U.S. government has been in a long period of self-deception with regard to a 20-year-long run of deficits and growing indebtedness to fund them. The consequences of this multi-decade wooden-headedness are beginning to be revealed.