Now Michael Greve, a constitutional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues: “We like to tell ourselves that all our constitutional stories must have a happy ending.” The Founders’ foremost problem, Greve says, was debt. To establish the nation’s credibility, they needed to replace the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution. “We,” Greve says, “merely have to return to it, if we can.” He wonders whether we can. …

Barack Obama’s risible solution is to add 4.6 points to the tax rate for less than 3 percent of Americans. Some conservatives have the audacity of hope — expecting 5 percent economic growth (the post-1945 average: 2.9 percent) and planning to continue financing the debt by borrowing at negative interest rates. Of our long slide into financial decrepitude, Greve says: “The rate of deterioration does not correlate in any obvious way with political control over the presidency and Congress.” …

Democracy is representative government, which is the problem. Democracy represents the public’s preferences, which are mutable, but also represents human nature, which is constant. People flinch from confronting difficult problems until driven to by necessity’s lash. The Claremont Institute’s William Voegeli, commenting on Greve and the dubious postulate of continuous 5 percent growth, says: “There’s good reason to fear that if the economy builds a 5 percent levee the polity will just come up with a 6 percent flood. We humans adroitly use scant and equivocal evidence to convince ourselves that the most congenial interpretation of events is also the most plausible and durable.”