I have the same disbelief at Francis Bator’s pronouncements about our lack of a public debt problem (quoted by Mark here) as I did when Vice-President Cheney said “deficits don’t matter”, but I know from experience that in America that puts me in a minority. As Jonathan noted here, even many residents of California believe the state budget can be balanced with no cuts in services and no tax increases. There is something deeply ingrained in the American character — something evident not only in how we vote but in how we use credit cards and take out mortgages — that simply can’t accept that one can take on too much debt. We have faith that the bill will never come due, or that if it does someone other than us should pay it.
Not so the British, as Bagehot makes clear. There are sizable protests about the painful public sector cuts, but 57% of the public says that the cuts are about the right size or not large enough. Britons know from bitter experience that a country can indeed take on too much debt, and that makes them as different from us as a 55-year old who has seen his share of ups and downs is from a 18 year old who sees nothing but ever-increasing success in his future.