“The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest  Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”

The Roman historian and thinker Cicero said these words in 55 BC, but it could be any one of our current crop of pollies, from either side, although the language may be a bit polished for some of them.

However, we now explicitly understand the notion of public investment, and the associated debt as a means to build productive infrastructure  to benefit the commercial activity of the whole community. In Roman times it was a matter of “Romanising the Barbarians” as a means of subduing them, the economic activity was a fortunate offshoot. (The link is to a wonderful book that casts an entirely different light on the popular view of Roman history)

Our forbears understood this when they built the train lines, bridges, and the Snowy scheme, that we still use today, but we appear to have forgotten the value of long term investments, and need to justify every activity in the current electoral cycle