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April 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-8


A Commentary on American Public Policy


Part 12



So far, this discussion on security has centered, more or less, on the aspect of physical safety; but we could just as well be speaking of the security of a roof over one’s head or the ready supply of food for one’s belly.  When an individual wishes to purchase any form of security and does not possess the full purchase price to fulfill his desires, he is left with four general options.  He can:  1) lower the sights of his original desire to a level commensurate with his current assets; 2) increase his assets available for purchase by personal production; 3) increase his assets available for purchase by the theft of someone else’s production; or 4) sell the one last remaining asset he has in his possession, and that would be himself.


This is not a new phenomenon.  It has occurred throughout recorded history and very probably before.  When a man lost confidence in his own ability to provide for himself and to procure the security he craved, he would indenture himself to someone who he perceived to have the ability to provide certain subsistence for him.  He became a bondservant.  Sometimes, a man was capable of providing a minimal subsistence for himself but craved the security provided by a higher station.  In this case, he could apprentice himself to a master tradesman to acquire the skill of the trade.  In either case, the individual was subservient to the master.  (This is no longer a condition of a current apprenticeship.)  The notable difference between an indenture and an apprenticeship is that the apprenticeship was of specified duration and the period of bond could be open-ended, even permanent.  The advantage sought was security or a better standard of living than was currently available to the individual; but each was at the expense of his personal liberty.


Make no mistake about it.  Neither of these was in any way akin to a sovereign individual working for a wage. The distinction is found in this:  the master held full control.  With the bondservant and the apprentice, the master had a surety claim on them as individuals, and he also had the first claim on the fruit of their labor to use as best suited him.  Yes, he returned some of the fruit to them or possibly left some of it with them; but the first claim was his.  It made no difference that each of these men voluntarily acquiesced to their servitude.  It made no difference whether the master took it all and then returned some of it.  It also made no difference whether he took only a percentage and allowed them to keep the remainder or whether he actually took 0 percent or 100 percent from them.  As long as he held the first claim, it was all the property of the master to use at his discretion.  A sovereign individual retains the first claim to the fruit of his labor, and then he disposes of it as he desires.  A sovereign can trade it for something else of value, give it gratis to another, or bury it in a hole if he so chooses.  After all, it is his.


Unfortunately, those who become dependent on government-sponsored welfare, whether they realize it or not, put themselves in a position of the same nature as the bondservant or the apprentice.  They come to rely on someone else, someone whom they believe can provide them security, the guarantee of subsistence, or a better standard of living than they presently enjoy from their own efforts.  To acquire this security, they pay the same price paid by the bondservant and apprentice.  They must give themselves over to the master’s control.  The fact that they willingly indulge in the trade does not change the nature of the trade or its consequence:


Next to permanency in office, nothing can contribute more to the independence of the judges than a fixed provision for their support.  The remark made in relation to the President is equally applicable here.  In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.  And we can never hope to see realized in practice the complete separation of the judicial from the legislative power, in any system which leaves the former dependent for pecuniary resources on the occasional grants of the latter.  (Federalist Papers, No. 79).


Hamilton’s remarks were addressed to the office of the President and the Justices of the Court.  He understood the relationship that dependence on another would introduce to these offices.  A pertinent question to ask at this point concerning this relationship would be, “If dependence on government (the legislative branch) would adversely affect the independence and behavior of the President and ‘supreme (sic) Court’ Justices with all the power and prestige that these offices entail, how much more detrimental will it be to the ordinary man who has neither their power and prestige nor their wherewithal?”  Will we ordinary men not be manipulated into subservience?


With the best of intentions and the promise of government-assured security, we entice our brother to surrender his liberty.  We lure him into the condition of servitude, and for the most part he is unaware of the trade.  In fact, many who read this essay will continue to deny the exchange that has just been described, notwithstanding the fact that they have been made aware of it.  It is the same exchange you can read of, time after time after time, in the Old Testament, and human nature being what it is, we still continue to make it today.  And yet, we not only accept this state of affairs, we seemingly encourage it if by no other way than our tacit approval.


If we do this because it makes us feel better about ourselves because we have “helped” our brother, perhaps it is time we think deeply about just what sort of help we are giving him, with an eye to the consequences that that “help” causes to be visited upon him.  Some consider the Biblical Book of Sirach apocrypha, but it is instructive nonetheless.  At 40:29 it states, “When one has to look to another’s table, his life is really not a life.  His neighbor’s delicacies bring revulsion of spirit . . . ”  With our current social policies, this is our gift to our brother.  Re-evaluating our personal positions from time to time is not out of the question and is entirely proper.


Of the two forms of slavery we have discussed, the one being of the nature of physical domination and the other of the nature of voluntary acquiescence or deceit, the latter is by far the greater evil.  If a man is merely physically dominated, he is fully aware of the domination, and he naturally retains an attitude of resistance to it.  He maintains hope for regaining the possession of his liberty.  Conversely, when a man is dominated in mind and spirit, even if he may be vaguely aware of his lost prize, his attitude is one of acceptance and acquiescence.  It is unlikely he will ever chance the loss of his current state of security to reclaim his prize.  If a man is totally unaware of his loss, he knows not enough to even inspire him to attempt reclamation.  There is no hope for his liberty.  Remember, “There is no one more enslaved than he who is unaware of his chains.”


To say that the social welfare state is odious and repugnant to liberty would not begin to describe my loathing for the beast.  Look at what it has done “for” the citizens of other countries:  Russia, Cuba, North Korea, etc.  It causes the independence, self-esteem, and courage of the individual to whither.  It reduces the man to something less than he would otherwise naturally be.  The same ill effects are becoming all too prevalent in this nation.  Do we attempt the change while a majority of us still have some vague notion of liberty within us, or do we wait until the last vestige of our heritage of liberty has been expunged from our spirit and then while away our hours in blissful servitude?  If we allow our more vulnerable brothers to proceed down this path, it will eventually come to be visited upon us and then upon our children and grandchildren.  We will have failed them, and they will have every right to curse us for it.




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