I have been using the phrase, "the party's over," on this blog and on the street for some time now. I feel compelled to offer a bit of explanation and background.

Provenance: Several months ago, at the beginning of the financial meltdown, my wife and I were driving through the campus of our beloved alma mater. As we passed beautiful coed after beautiful coed driving new sports cars, talking on cell phones, and cruising handsome young men, I remarked to her, "someone needs to come down here and tell these kids the party's over."

I exercised my prerogative to interpret her raised eyebrow as an invitation to expound. "This is all over," I said. "The college experience can no longer merely be about seizing the opportunity to hang out with exotic people, party all weekend, shop, and find romance outside the confines of parental supervision." Time is short. We must return to teaching and learning as our number one educational priority.

I can't remember her exact words, but, in essence, she accused me of being a cranky old man. She gently reminded me of my own college experience. She had me there. No one had ever taken better advantage of the party than I--but that ironic observation, in fact, no matter how incisive, misses the greater point: the party's over. It is not really important whether this new fact of life is fair--or some kind of double standard--it mainly matters that the new reality really is the new reality.

The party's over.

Meaning: So much of the culture we have invented for ourselves during the last half century (accelerating over the last quarter century and last decade) is not sustainable. The world is suddenly very serious--but the kids on the campuses of our major universities, like their parents and teachers, are still in "party" mode.

Therefore, if we suddenly and unexpectedly live in a very serious world, we can no longer be careless or whimsical with our personal, national, or institutional resources. The old republican virtues are, by necessity, very much back in vogue: frugality, modesty, integrity, sacrifice, humility, etc.

The New Reality. We no longer live in a fantasy world without consequences. We can no longer pretend that path to prosperity and security is paved by spending beyond our means. We no longer have the luxury of wasting large blocks of time on the pursuit of temporary pleasures and self indulgences. The decades-long magic carpet ride is over. It is time to walk the earth once again and rediscover the limits and natural laws of the human experience.

A Self-Conscious Aside: having said all that, I am keeping the blog.