When talking about the budget cuts and tax increases Mr Cameron made a valid point of principle. He said that one reason to impose this austerity was that it would be unfair to burden future generations with debt spent on propping up the income and benefits of the present generation.
Of course economics is not always predictable. Some commentators claim that the austerity will end up damaging the economy but sending it into a double dip recession. The coalition claims that without the austerity the economy will be damaged more.
I am not clever enough to know the truth. Generally the economy is about confidence and if austerity engenders confidence then that will be good for the economy. We shall see.
What however is apparent is that it is quite wrong for my generation to borrow heavily so that we can live well but leave it to our children and our grandchildren to pick up the tab. At the moment the United Kingdom has, on a per capita basis, borrowed over £100,000 which the government has spent mainly by making sure that my generation have plenty of money from the government, which my generation has all spent.
Unless the debt is paid off relatively rapidly generations in the near future will not be able to borrow anything and they will have a worse life than people of the existing generations. This is the worst kind of inheritance – an inheritance of debt.
When you die your heirs are not responsible for your debts, except to the extent of your assets. Your heirs have no duty to repay debt beyond the extent of the estate. But countries are not like people; countries never die, so that the debt is the responsibility for all future generations.
So Mr Cameron is quite right about the principle of not burdening future generations with our debt.
That principle of course is universal and needs to be applied universally.
Debt is not the only bad inheritance that we can offer future generations. Right now the present generation in every developed nation and in most of the larger developing nations is threatening to leave future generations an inheritance of global warming, pollution, loss of biodiversity and loss of irreplaceable resources; with this comes a harder tougher life. This will be the inheritance of the whole world; there is no avoiding the debt.
We need to be as austere with our use of global resources and fossil fuel and we are with money. The orgy of consumption must come to an end.