Most people think of a big army, navy and airforce as the key elements of “national defense,” but George Washington also included the government’s ability to borrow money. In his farewell address, he called it “a very important source of strength and security.”
Since the government’s ability to borrow is vital to national defense, he also said we should “cherish public credit.”
In simplest terms, the first president believed the government should only borrow when absolutely necessary, or as he put it, by using the public credit “as sparingly as possible.”
And he also gave us a very practical way to preserve credit and avoid excessive debt. Since war is the most expensive thing the government engages in, Washington advised us to avoid “occasions of expense by cultivating peace.”
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