Slow decay or abrupt failure?

A question at Distributed Republic:

I’m young enough (34) that I’d rather deal with a lot of short term pain if there’s some hope for sanity afterwards. A government default would be painful for many, but I’d prefer that to spending the rest of my life in a European-style social democracy.

I’ll give my own answer, which is perhaps influenced by my age (29), by quoting Carlyle:

Great is bankruptcy. . . . Honour to Bankruptcy; ever righteous on the great scale, though in detail it is so cruel. Under all falsehoods it works unweariedly mining. No falsehood, did it rise heaven high and cover the world, but Bankruptcy, one day, will sweep it down and make us free of it.

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