A few generations ago no self respecting U.S.citizen would expect the government to provide him or her much of anything. Employment, health care, old age support were not considered a function of the government. These were matters taken care of within the family, church or neighborhoods. But slowly socialistic thinking has gained traction in the U.S., primarily within the academic community and among those who classify themselves as liberal thinkers. Europeans accepted these philosophies earlier than has the U.S.populace. As a result Europeans have a much more extensive “cradle to grave” involvement of their government than do we and they face a more serious economic crisis, at the moment, than do we.
Increasingly, politicians have accepted the socialistic lessons of the academicians. As pointed out by Mr. Brooks, it is easy to persuade too many of us that our welfare is the responsibility of someone other than ourselves. That “someone” should be the government, the politicians say, recognizing that promising more of these services is likely to curry favor among enough voters that their re-election to office is, if not insured, greatly enhanced.
We went from pride in self sufficiency to “a chicken in every pot” to “a car in every garage” to “a house for everyone”. No one asked and no one said how the payment for fulfilling these promises would be made. Meanwhile the chickens, pots, garages, cars and houses are less available to the citizenry and the answer to how will we pay for what has been promised divides the country.
Unfortunately, no discussion of the very divergent views of the social role of government can be held by politicians or their surrogates (or perhaps by any of us) without demagoguery – on both sides. Discussions invariably devolve into arguments about enhancing the rich on the backs of the elderly, middle class and the poor versus government’s Orwellian control of our lives under the guise of providing social programs or screaming matches about protecting the 1% vs. the creation of “death panels.” Can we not have a rational discussion about extending the age for social security eligibility for those decades away from being eligible, without scaring those currently relying on social security checks? Can’t we have a rational discussion of health care responsibility without reverting to death panel scare tactics?
My father was laid off from his job during the Great Depression. There was no unemployment insurance and his “severance pay” was merely a “pink slip.” He went out the next day and sought work. He took on “odd jobs” that allowed him to feed his family. It never occurred to him that the government should bail him out or provide him with anything. Dad had only a high school education but he insisted upon his children obtaining college educations. We didn’t go to expensive colleges. We went to the local college and we worked part time to help him pay our way through it. There were no student loans. We took more than four years to complete our studies because we worked. But we did complete them – and then more and had no debt to pay off. After graduation we took jobs that paid the most and if they were in our “chosen field” we were lucky (assuming we had a chosen filed). If those jobs were not in our chosen filed we worked until we either found a job in our chosen field or found a different “chosen field” to pursue as a career.
So, when politicians and pundits tell us that we can have it all if only we tax those who worked hard to make themselves successful; tax corporations a little more so that there is less for them to invest in their businesses or to distribute to their investors (who they also want to tax more) and when the “Occupy” crowd holds up signs that they want “good jobs in their chosen fields” and demand the redistribution of wealth because someone who worked hard makes more than someone who doesn’t want to work at all, I see a future such as Europeans now face. And I dispair for my grandchildren.
Brooks’ message is right even if a bit obtusely put. We have to correct our current desire for things for “free” and we have to stop educating each new generations that their every need and desire will be fulfilled by their government. Whether this is what our forefathers understood or not I don’t know. I learned that the checks and balances system was to keep the few from tyranny over the masses as the monarchists had done and from whom our independence had been gained. That aside, Brooks’ article is just another sounding of the alarm that we are on a path of self destruction. I wonder if enough folks are listening?
What say you Richard, Russell, UJ?