But it isn’t just the people at the Burlington Coat Factory or Britain who can be tricked into buying things on fake credit. Forbes recently described how health care “reform” is going to be paid for with a windfall that will never come. Is there any difference between a woman who imagines she’s won the lottery and politicians who will pay for future expenses from invented revenues?…

Maybe the problem is exactly as Sir Howard Davies described it: the culture of dependency which in some circles is confused with the phrase “scientific socialism”. When even people who should know better believe they can get something for nothing — striking academics in the UK, shoppers in a store, people with health care insurance, people with mortgages — the problem comes to resemble not ordinary debt but participation in a scam. It’s almost as if a hoaxer had appear on the national scene and grandly offered to pick up the tab for a dazzling future without a real dime to his name — and people believed him. How could it happen? And what happens when the joker is unmasked?