I still worry about the mounting national debt. But a reader named Jimbo has argued (in comments, here) that my fears are groundless, because the rules in a fiat currency system are fundamentally different from the rules under a gold standard. This point of view is called Modern Monetary Theory. I would like to believe MMT, because then I could stop worrying.
Today I came across a brief explanation of MMT. It's sufficiently dumbed down that even I could grasp it.
Is MMT correct? I don't know. I lack the economic expertise to pass judgment. Two things make me wary: first, it seems to be promising a free lunch, and second, it appears to serve as a justification for "progressive" policies, i.e., bigger and more intrusive government.
As a pessimist, I'm doubtful of free lunches, and as a conservative, I'm not sold on big government as the solution to all ills.
Still, the MMT people may have a point. Maybe when the US went off the gold standard, the rules of the game changed. Maybe when we obsess about deficits and a balanced budget, we are stuck in an outdated paradigm.
As one commenter at the above-linked site argues,
Being the sovereign provider of a non-convertible floating rate (fx) currency of issue, the US government is not financially constrained. This means that the federal government does not need to tax or borrow to finance its deficit spending. To say that the government will go bankrupt, become insolvent, run out of money or default on its debt is like saying that a scoreboard will run out of points.
Are we scaring ourselves silly for no good reason? Or are the MMT people singing a pollyannish siren song?