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April 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-8


A Commentary on American Public Policy


Part 9



Is it possible to step back from this precipice and return to the safety of our original heritage?  It is.  The first step is to be able to recognize the problem.  The second, and far more difficult, is to acknowledge our own participation in this act of perfidy.  The third is to assist others in the first two steps of this endeavor.  The fourth is to act, that is, to keep informed of our problems and make a serious effort to comprehend them; to determine the proper application of constitutional principles to them; to identify candidates who are committed to abide by the Constitution in these matters; to support these candidates; and to encourage others to do the same.  In other words, cast a truly informed vote and work to see that others do, too.


How do we recognize the problem?  To paraphrase Frederic Bastiat from his terrific little book entitled The Law, if something is improper for the individual himself to do, it is an equally improper activity for government.  It’s as simple as that.  Why?  Because the government receives its authority, the authority that has been invested in us as individuals by our Creator and is consequently relinquished by “we the people” to the government, to use as our agent.  As I am about to take aim at a very sacred cow (our nation’s current social welfare policy), and because I know from past personal experience what an evil man I will be portrayed as for doing so and the scurrilous adjectives that will be applied to me, please allow me a short disclaimer:  I am entirely cognizant that my Creator has entrusted me with an obligation to help my fellow man who is less fortunate.  I fully accept this obligation and do my best to act accordingly.


You probably noticed that the preceding paragraphs contained, and the following paragraphs will contain, an inordinate amount of the perpendicular pronoun, “I.”  This is quite intentional and twofold.  I don’t wish to assign these thoughts to anyone else, and it is my wish to drive home the point that the aforementioned obligation is both individual and personal.  My Creator assigned me an obligation and it is up to me to fulfill that obligation.  If this is not the case, from whence did the obligation derive?  Does the government have the authority to assign me this obligation?  Could you, as an individual, assign me this obligation?  If not, then this is an improper activity of government.  It is usurpation.  It is perfidy.


My objection to the current state of affairs concerning social welfare policy isn’t that I am forced to fulfill an obligation I do not wish to fulfill, but rather how I personally fulfill that obligation.  My Creator does not physically force me to fulfill this obligation.  He gave me a “free will.”  My obligation can only be fulfilled when I do so willingly, voluntarily.  My obligation is not fulfilled when the fruit of my labor is forcibly expropriated from my control, and I am left feeling nothing but anger and resentment.  Nor is my obligation fulfilled if I somehow manage to engineer the expropriation from you instead.  Under these circumstances, the wherewithal with which to legitimately fulfill our obligations has been diminished for the both of us.  Worse yet, we are apt to completely abdicate our personal obligation to our brother to the care of government and consider our obligation fulfilled.


It is my contention, then, that our responsibilities, our obligations to our more unfortunate brothers, can only be rightfully discharged when performed voluntarily and from the heart; and not brought about through the threat, duress, and coercion of government.  There are those who will say, “Well, that’s easy enough.  Just pay your taxes voluntarily and with a glad heart.”  It is probably the case that I am just a little bit old-fashioned, but I still believe that I have first claim on the fruits of my labor, my private property.  I believe that our Founders believed in the right to private property, and I believe that the Almighty Himself sanctions the right to private property in the Holy Bible.  If this last statement is not correct, one must come to the conclusion that the Lord was merely having an idle chat with Moses on the Mount when he said, “Thou shall not steal.”  If the individual does not have first claim on the fruits of his own labor, his private property, then this commandment of the Lord is seemingly superfluous. 


Maybe it is just my problem; but being a mere mortal, I find it exceedingly difficult to be made to involuntarily relinquish the fruits of my labor to some purpose of which I may, or may not, approve, and to still do so with a glad heart.  No matter how noble the cause, the end does not justify the means.  In any event, I still have the obligation and the right to respond personally, and it is up to me to do this.  Sometimes I look around and see those people with obscenely high salaries, exorbitant bonuses, and golden parachutes, and I just know in my gut that they really don’t deserve all that.  And to top it all off, I’m pretty sure those selfish people don’t begin to bear the portion of responsibility to their unfortunate brothers that, to my mind, they would seem capable to bear.  If they would just give their fair share, I could be relieved of some of my personal obligation.  Maybe if we conjured up enough government social programs to do the Lord’s work?


When I start thinking such thoughts, it is time to ask myself some questions.  Who am I to assess what my brother’s contribution should be?  And do I have the authority to pass judgment on what those people should be doing in this regard, much less the authority to delegate to government the power to compel those people to perform at the level I deem appropriate?  Do I have the authority to deny those people their right, however loathsome it might be, not to care as much as me?  Am I even assured that any of my assumptions about those people are correct?  Is it appropriate for me to join with a majority in the usurpation of the rights of those who would object to this type of government action?  The answer to all these questions is “NO.”  I must then conclude that these are also improper activities for government.  But for the sake of argument, let us suppose it is appropriate for government to function in this area.  Would it not also be appropriate for us to examine the effects of this government involvement?  What are the consequences to the recipients of this largesse, and to society?


When the individual is introduced to the largesse of government, it is all too probable that he will become dependent on that largesse.  Once the individual is dependent on the government, it takes no stretch of the imagination to comprehend that he becomes subservient to the government for the continuation of that largesse.  Thus it happens that, if in order to qualify for certain government largesse we need to behave in a given fashion, we behave in that fashion.  If the order is to expose the family financial records to government inspection, we do so.  If it is necessary for dad to live apart from his family so mom and the children can qualify for Aid to Dependent Children, he does so.  If, in order to procure an “education” for our children, we must send them to a public school where there is a certain probability they will be indoctrinated with values that are contrary to those taught in the home, we do so.  If we must vote for a politician because he will perpetuate the largesse, we do so.


What is happening should be unmistakable.  We are selling our liberty piecemeal in exchange for that government largesse . . . for the proverbial bowl of pottage.  Actually, that is not quite right.  We are, in reality, trading away our liberty for something that is already ours.  And that is for the return of a share of the fruits of our own labor that we allowed the government to take in the first place.  It isn’t a very smart trade.  Lest you think I am being unduly harsh on only the less fortunate, this is true of every one of us when we avail ourselves of that government largesse on any account that we could have, and probably should have, provided for ourselves.  This act of usurpation by “we the people” perpetrated upon “we the (other) people,” whether knowingly or unknowingly, comes full circle and visits its vile consequence on its very practitioners.  Poetic justice?




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