The Founders were endlessly concerned about giving ordinary Americans an unprecedented measure of liberty as offered by the Constitution they were drafting. They wondered if regular folk could muster the sophistication necessary to make rational, intelligent decisions at the polls and they wondered if citizens would be able to self-regulate their activities in the absence of rigorous governmental oversight. As we now know, when finally offered nearly unbridled liberty Americans of the day did not disappoint.
Fast forward to 2009 and it’s easy to see why the Founders were so worried. In spite of various streams of round-the-clock news and data, most of our electorate is misinformed, blissfully ignorant or simply apathetic with respect to the means by which they are governed. Meanwhile, the civil, moral and ethical margins of our society are ever more deformed by a widening cultural belief that liberty means “anything goes”. Where the “anything goes” belief intersects the notion that “the state should meet individual needs”, we have real trouble. That’s where we are now.
The great irony of America is that the maintenance of freedom is awfully hard work and with few exceptions, it’s the work of individuals, not the government. The Constitution was drafted to ensure that this was the case. It was drafted to make government subject to the governed. Of course that means that the governed must do the hard civic work of keeping government in check. That work is made all the harder by those who are determined, in their vast ignorance, to have government impose equality-of-outcome across the social landscape. In short, those that argue for wealth redistribution lead us toward tyranny. Problem is, these ignorant few are often successful in co opting government, particularly when the hard civic work of containing government goes unattended as it has now for decades. As lovers of liberty we have been our own worst enemy.
Liberty and responsibility are codependent: two sides of the same coin. I don’t think this concept is that difficult to grasp but our government, often at the insistence of a loud and ignorant political base, has sought for decades to make Americans less responsible for their daily lives and therefore less free. Curiously, this stealthy march toward tyranny is often done in the name of compassion, usually for “the needy”. Shamefully, with the “help” of government, the truly needy are at high risk of becoming truly dependent. Once that happens, escape is practically impossible. As evidence, I refer you to the war on poverty which has yet to secure a single beachhead but holds an untold number of dependent prisoners within inner cities throughout America. For further proof of our national shame, look no further than the “Obama Bucks” stimulus debacle that occurred in Detroit last week.
The truly sinister part of governmental compassion is that there’s no compassionate intent at all. Compassion is simply the excuse that politicians use to justify the confiscation of money from the so-called “rich”. With that money, politicians then buy the favor (and votes) of the so-called “needy” and their loud, ignorant supporters. The politicians make this purchase by providing benefits (even outright free money) to “the needy”. Of all wage earners in America, some 47% pay no income tax at all. That very statistic (from the Tax Policy Center) implies that nearly half of America is “needy” and unable to contribute to the common good. I don’t think so. What it tells me is that politicians have nearly secured their repeated reelection buy purchasing an permanent majority.
ObamaCare is the latest vote buying scheme. In the end, if a Universal Healthcare package becomes law, it will serve to usurp individual liberty by supplanting individual responsibility with one-size-fits-all governmental guidelines. Through a rat’s nest of interlocking programs, your care will be determined by charts, graphs and cost-benefit calculations all developed by brilliant people from the halls of our elite universities, and if you believe our politicians, these brilliant chart-makers don’t even need know your name to ensure that you get exactly the right treatment for your specific ailment. What are chances?
To remain free, truly free, individuals must make their own decisions. Whether the subject is healthcare or education or transportation or what to have for dinner, we should not be so anxious to give control of our lives to governmental officials that could easily become neglectful or even coercive.
For better or worse, the ugly truth is that money is at the center of liberty. To resist the seduction of free money, you must have money you can call you own: money that is under your exclusive control. Money you earn by taking full advantage of the opportunities this nation offers to everyone: opportunities to prosper. Liberty only exists where opportunities to prosper exist but individuals must do the hard work required to prosper. THAT is why freedom remains hard. It’s also why those that have already prospered tend to defend their hard earned money against governmental confiscation. In essence, they are protecting their very freedom.
So what about the needy? What about those with medical needs?
The answer again reveals why freedom is so hard. It’s up to each individual to overcome the hurdles that stand between their present discontent and their vision of a happy future. As a practical matter, each individual is free to define happy in any way they choose. Liberty simply requires that individuals live with the results of their own making: good, bad or otherwise.
The federal government, charged with the unique responsibility of ensuring equal opportunity and thereby the means for individuals to prosper, was never intended to provide charitable services. For that, we must rely on friends, family, faith and organizations that are designed with a charitable intent. The problem with governmental involvement in charity is that politicians have a built-in conflict-of-interest. Voters that become dependent on government through the seduction of free money will tend to support the very politicians that made them dependent. For these people tyranny is a way of life, and many, too many, have surrendered to that tyranny.
Harsh? Perhaps. But the Founders knew human nature and they knew that liberty would fall prey to tyranny if citizens were able to prevail upon the new federal government for their basic needs, even at the level of survival. In those days, people embraced the concept of self-reliance because they had experienced the heavy hand of a foreign government and knew that without vigilance and civic maintenance, tyranny would emerge again. Our government, under the Constitution was conceived as the arbiter of liberty and a guarantor of equal opportunity, not equal outcome. We bastardize the original intent of the Founders at the cost of our very liberty.
When wealth redistribution occurs in the false name of compassion, liberty is damaged for everybody. Meanwhile, the seeds of class warfare, resentment and discontent, are sown from coast to coast. The very fact that we have a literal “dependency class”, a class that is convinced it will perish if not directly supported by government action, is a national outrage.
Let’s not go down this path again as invited by ObamaCare. Freedom is hard but the rewards of self-reliance are worth every sacrifice. Our government has no right to confiscate the fruit of individual accomplishment for the purpose of meeting the personal needs of any other person or group. Wealth redistribution is not only bad for liberty it’s immoral. It’s as immoral as imprisoning someone without due process of law. It must stop. We must finally draw the line and when we have finally made that line impassable, we must find a way to reverse course. Freedom hangs in the balance.