(Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education — www.fee.org — and president emeritus of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.)

The failed attempt of the federal government to spend our way out of recession may say more about the country that swallows it than it does about the politicians who passed it. If Americans can be suckered into shackling themselves and future generations with trillions of dollars in new debt, shame on us!

This is a sign of neither strong character nor a sustainable economy. It reeks of the same moral cowardice and fiscal insanity that doomed great civilizations of the past. The bread and circuses that helped mightily to bankrupt ancient Rome come to mind. Where are the men and women of courage and integrity who will keep their hands in their own pockets?

Three years ago, even state governments that once jealously guarded their financial independence were hearing dinner bells instead. Few of the 50 governors at that time resisted the “come and get it” mentality and many of them, now that the federal well has run dry, are finally having second thoughts.

Consider House Concurrent Resolution No. 2 of the 85th General Assembly of the State of Indiana, passed by that state’s House and Senate in January 1947. Written in the quaint, commonsense vernacular of the day, its sentiments probably couldn’t muster more than a handful of votes in the state legislatures of 2011.

It begins thus:

Indiana needs no guardian and intends to have none. We Hoosiers — like the people of our sister states — were fooled for quite a spell with the magician’s trick that a dollar taxed out of our pockets and sent to Washington will be bigger when it comes back to us. We have taken a good look at said dollar. We find that it lost weight in its journey to Washington and back. The political brokerage of the bureaucrats has been deducted. We have decided that there is no such thing as ‘federal’ aid. We know that there is no wealth to tax that is not already within the boundaries of the 48 states.

So we propose henceforward to tax ourselves and take care of ourselves. We are fed up with subsidies, doles and paternalism.
We are no one’s stepchild. We have grown up. We serve notice that we will resist Washington, D.C. adopting us.

The resolution urged the legislatures and citizens of all the states to “restore the American Republic and our 48 states to the foundations built by our fathers.”

If we had listened to the Indiana legislature in 1947, we might be several trillion dollars freer today.