.. the question addressed by Buchanan in his work on debt was the very simple one: who bears the burden of repaying government debt?
That is, if government builds a bridge today by borrowing money, who ultimately pays for the bridge? Buchanan showed, I believe conclusively, that the bridge is paid for by the people whose taxes rise in order to pay off the bondholders (that is, in order to pay off the creditors who lent the money in the first place, or the successors of these creditors). Debt issued today, therefore, is a burden on future taxpayers.
.. you must concede that it is at least possible that today’s citizens will be tempted to consume today at the expense of unknown future taxpayers .. Spending other people’s money is so much more fun than spending your own, especially if those other people are faceless and, in many cases, not yet even born.
Scholars less careful than Buchanan – especially the Keynesians of the 1950s (and again today) – are misled into thinking that outstanding debt owed by government to its own citizens does not represent a genuine burden to its citizens as a group. (“We owe it to ourselves!” In the aggregate, then, there’s no net burden!”)LEITURA ADICIONAL - One More Time, Part II por Don Boudreaux
Buchanan’s argument is crucially important. The reason is that the belief that $X of outstanding yet internally held government debt is no net burden on the citizens of the country threatens to make people too sanguine about debt-financed government spending. (“Don’t worry so much about the outstanding debt. We owe it mostly to ourselves. It’s not like government is a private household or firm!”) But Buchanan insisted – again, I believe unassailably – that government is not a miraculously different institution that somehow is exempted from basic laws of arithmetic, finance, and economics. Debt that government incurs is costly no less so than is debt incurred by any household or firm.