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April 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-8


A Commentary on American Public Policy


Part 8



The following ten statements are generally attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but there is much disagreement as to the veracity of this attribution.  This author has not been successful in finding the identity of the author of the statements; but they contain too much truth and wisdom to be omitted for this reason.  “The Ten Cannots:”


1. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
2. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
3. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
4. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
5. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
6. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
7. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
8. You cannot establish security on borrowed money
9. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.
10. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.


If you will examine the ten preceding statements with a critical eye, you will see that there is a theme common to all.  Each exhibits a trait deeply imbued in socialism.  That is, socialism breaks every one of these precepts — and it does so at the expense of individual liberty.  If liberty is not a concern of yours, you need do nothing.  The current inertia of government will carry you to where you want to go.  But if you prize liberty, the time is near to fish or cut bait.  Our nation has drifted far off the course established for us by our Founders.


If you have attained any age whatsoever, you can compare the conditions from your youth to those of today, and you will know they have deteriorated.  There is no reason to believe the inertia of our drift will self-correct.  You need to immediately identify statesmen, men of uncommon courage, who understand the value of limited government and capitalism and who can prove to you that they will honor your liberty with determined action.  You must finance their elections, support them vocally, and cast your ballot for them.  To do less will mean the further erosion and probable extirpation of our precious liberties.  If that happens, we will have betrayed our own children.


Perhaps at one time people could be forgiven for succumbing to the blandishment of socialism.  What would be the excuse for this behavior today?  Even if you don’t want to believe those who would disabuse you of the joys of socialism through their word and writing, you simply cannot escape the conclusions to be drawn from your own examination of the now-existing socialist countries.  The list is long:  Cuba, Russia, North Korea, China, Vietnam, and more.  Look at the lives of the ordinary people who inhabit these countries.  Any realistic comparison between the lives they lead and that of an average American will show the current disparity between the systems.


And we have already moved a good deal of the way toward socialism ourselves.  Imagine what this country could be like without those shackles.  What would this country be like today if we had never started down that path?  With what should be readily apparent to any thinking person, there is absolutely no reason to accept socialism or to condone its precursor, liberalism.  The point is, we can and should know better.  The only rational thing to do is to reject them both in favor of liberty.  And to do any less is perfidy.


Ah, you miserable creatures!  You who think that you are so great!  You who judge humanity to be so small!  You who wish to reform everything!  Why don’t you reform yourselves?  That task would be sufficient enough.  (The Law).


In our system of government, the elected government officials receive their authority to act or delegate that authority on behalf of “we the people,” from us, we those very people.  In the broadest and fullest sense, then, the government is comprised of “we the people.”  If the preceding statements are true, then the government can have no more authority to act than “we the people” may voluntarily relinquish to that government.  There are few in this nation who would argue, at least openly, that anything other than what has been stated is the case.


There have also been many instances in which our duly elected government officials have acted far beyond any legitimate grant of authority from “we the people.”  In declaring an act legitimate, we are speaking of an act that can reasonably be construed to be legitimate only if we are, in any serious sense, abiding by and in conformity with the legacy with which we were endowed by our Founding Fathers.


A legacy is a gift from a benefactor, and our legacy is the Constitution.  When our elected officials perform an act that falls outside of the legitimate grant of authority, they are acting extra-constitutionally, that is, outside of the bounds of the Constitution.  There is no doubt in my mind that our Founders would have viewed this state of affairs as usurpation, and thus intolerable.


To my mind, there is something even more frightening at work.  It is one thing for elected officials to practice the artifice of usurpation, for “we the people” have it within our power to bring government officials to heel if we would deign to exercise it.  If “we the people” recognized the present danger to our liberty and acted accordingly, it is at least theoretically possible for the problem to be corrected in one election cycle.


It is quite another, and a far more hazardous circumstance, when the culprit who is practicing the artifice of usurpation is the majority of “we the people.”  After all, elected officials are few in number in comparison to “we the people;” but when a majority of “we the people” are in on the deal, our problem and the dangers it manifests multiply exponentially.  Now the few, instead of being sovereign individuals, are at the mercy of the many.  We have a democracy rather than the republic with which we in this nation were originally endowed. 


That’s right; it is you and I who have taken it upon ourselves to relieve our fellow citizens of the fruits of his labor for whatever purpose we have in mind.  The purpose can be high-minded and noble, such as the social programs we use to care for the less fortunate, or it could be other programs we favor to expropriate to ourselves benefits we desire but wish not to have to pay for entirely ourselves.  By way of explanation, these would be things we ourselves use more fully (disproportionately) than other citizens who still must pay a proportionate share — things, such as sports arenas, bicycle trails, and lakes.  Many people do not use these facilities in the least but still must bear the costs through the taxes they pay.  I have used the area of recreation as an example, but examples can be found in myriad other areas.  Examples can also be found in areas that we consider practical or even necessary, such as subsidized mass transit (Amtrak) and day care.  The use of these services is not limited to the unfortunate.  On the contrary, many of these services are used to an even greater degree by the more affluent among us.  Ask yourself, who can best afford to travel, or who can best afford to go to a professional sporting contest?


These things are, or at least could be, provided by the private sector, and more economically to boot.  But we have the mistaken notion that they can be provided more cheaply by government.  Although, in a given instance, your out-of-pocket expense is less for the government services you choose to utilize, the truth is that other people also have their favorite programs.  And the tax dollars you pay to support their subsidized use of their preferred programs is more than what you saved on your own out-of-pocket expense on those programs you choose to use.  There are extremely few instances to be found in which a government-provided service is provided more efficiently than it can be provided by the private sector.  It is only because we lose sight of our tax dollars and do not account for them, choosing to merely focus on our immediate out-of-pocket costs, that we succumb to the illusion that it is otherwise.


We have come to believe that we can put in one tax dollar and receive more than a dollar in return.  Over the long haul, and for the citizens of this nation as a whole, this is a mirage.  In the instances where you do, in fact, get back more than you put in, it is theft.  In the case of current government revenue, the theft is from our neighbors.  In the case that government runs a deficit, which must be repaid with future revenue, the theft is from our children and our children’s children.  In any event, the populace of this nation seems willing to support the usurpation of our neighbors’ and children’s right to the fruit of their labor and to expropriate that fruit to the use of our own immediate and personal desires.  This is contrary to “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God;” but even if this is not the case, our actions are not sustainable in the long run.  Whether through tax dollars or personal expense, we must be willing to face up to and pay for the benefits (goods and services) we personally consume.


Government does not have the ability to turn rocks into bread.  Everything that we consume has to be produced by someone, and that someone is you and me, “we the people.”  It is both appropriate and entirely necessary that the one who receives the benefit justly compensate the producer.  A system that falls short of this goal is doomed to fail.  It will fail precisely because everyone else is exactly like you and I.  They will cease to go to work and produce goods and services when they are not compensated to do so.  Even that rare soul who is absolutely altruistic will have to cease his good work when he can no longer recoup his expenses.  That’s just the way it is.  It’s the real world.  As the young folks say, “Deal with it.”




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