The Spectacle Blog

Nota Bene: Use Fiscal Responsibility

By on 11.25.13 | 4:11PM

I’ve seen the term “fiscal responsibility/irresponsibility” thrown around on the airwaves and the Internet for some time now, even applied to the spending habits of individuals. For example, it isn’t uncommon to see something like “we, as a household, need to be fiscally responsible” or “we need to teach our kids to be fiscally responsible.”

If people who say this mean—in some abstract sense—“we need to do our part and pay our taxes on time” or “we need to teach our kids how to be a good taxpayer” (i.e. we need to be responsible to the fisc) then they get a pass. But no one means this. Instead they mean “we can’t be spendthrifts.”

Pardon me for semanticizing, but this is just wrong. Etymologically the word has always meant “of or relating to the public or imperial treasury.” Governments are fiscally responsible or irresponsible; the people at home aren’t—they’re either prudent or profligate.

That is all.

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