In Jasper Fforde’s imaginative novel “First Among Sequels,” the British government is wrestling with a brewing crisis: a stupidity surplus.

The Brits have managed national affairs so sensibly that the traditionally-used up amount of stupidity is left to accumulate, threatening to destroy society.

It eventually overflows in one giant ill-advised lark.

If readers need further proof that Fforde is among the most imaginative modern writers, this book is it.

It only takes a quick look around to see that the real crisis facing the U.S. today is not a surplus, but a deficit of stupidity.

Since the economy turned sour in 2008, consumers have curbed spending in unprecedented ways. Credit card use has tanked, savings have blossomed and hardly anyone is parlaying their home equity into a speed boat anymore.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Americans have learned basic economic sense, but they are behaving as if they have learned it, and as Milton Friedman would tell you, that can be just as dangerous.

Tightening the financial belt after building an economy that presupposes extravagant spending is proving disastrous.
Investors and entrepreneurs have made business decisions based on an assumption of continued wastefulness.

How else can we explain the presence in every American mall of an “As Seen on TV” store?

Imagine buying the most successful bar in a port city, right before the fleet is expected back.

Armed with your folk knowledge of drunken sailors and their legendary propensity to consume alcohol, you paid top dollar for the bar.

Then the fleet arrives, and you learn that they all converted to Mormonism while at sea. Bottom line: the nation needs foolishly spent money.

There is a solution – students. Finally, the nation can use its millions of young scholars.

The task is so simple they can easily handle it and so vital their overdeveloped vanity won’t stop them. Who can spend money more foolishly than America’s youth?

Designer clothing, the latest electronics, wasteful vacations – college life is a master’s course in pointless consumerism. The rest of the country is remembering to ask such questions as “Do I need that?” and “What must I not buy to afford to buy this?”

So it falls to college students to continue in the now traditional role of the “charge first, afford later” consumer. Actually needing something is so mundane, even animals do it. But you know what animals don’t do?

They don’t spend $150 on “sexy schoolgirl” Halloween costumes. It is in that area that America’s youth shine. As most young people know from rumor and hearsay, these are tough economic times. While responsible adults are cutting back on stupidity, it falls to those among us most naturally inclined to fill the gap.

When you finish this article, put down the newspaper and buy something. Buy three of them, even if it’s something as worthless as a giant foam cowboy hat. There’s a lot of stupidity missing from the economy and we all have to do our share to replace it.

Otherwise, if things keep going this way, the stupidity deficit might doom us all.