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November 11, 2012

Depending on the Government

There have been a lot of misconceptions about the term "self-reliance," and how much the government gets involved in our lives. You've all heard the term "Nanny State," and many of you have agreed with me when I've decried it, be it the effect on lemonade stands, how we feed our children, bringing sweets to school, or even how we raise our kids to begin with.

Yesterday, I was reading Charles C.W. Cook's excellent National Review article, "Why I Despair", and something jumped out at me that I would like to address. Actually, my wife read it first and pointed this one out to me, but it jumped out even more after I read it myself.

So many in our society are rolling over and not only letting government take over their lives, but actively demanding it.

What have we become?

On page three of the article, Cooke says the following:
"In 2010, on the BBC’s Question Time — a British current-affairs show on which the guests trip over one other to display the appropriate degree of fealty to whichever orthodoxy is in the news that week whilst the audience tries to be as clever as one can be without doing any reading — the question of impending government spending cuts was raised. One audience member stood up and, waving her hands around, asked who would mow her elderly mother’s lawn if the government no longer did it. The audience clapped. The host looked serious. Not a single person on the panel said, “You!” Neither of the putatively Conservative guests even raised an eyebrow. A particularly oleaginous MP proceeded to tell her that it was a “good question.” I threw a coffee cup at my television."
I had to do a double-take, as I could not believe somebody could seriously ask that question, and nobody would call them on it.

When I was in high school, I mowed the lawns of both sets of grandparents. It would never even have occurred to us to wonder if we could somehow get the government to do it. When I went off to college, I still did it in the Summer and I think my Dad did it when I wasn't around. Somebody in the family did, anyway. If it had become an issue, we would have hired some local kid.


This is the mind-set we're dealing with, where everything is a government program, where we don't rely on ourselves to actually get anything done.

The idea that conservatives put forward of "self-reliance" has been misconstrued so badly, as sort of a "everyone must fend for themselves!" type mentality. That couldn't be further from the truth. When we say "self-reliance," it's things like this, that you should not be depending on the government for. Government should not be mowing your lawn. Government should not be shutting down kids' lemonade stands because the kids didn't "obtain a peddler’s license, a food license, and pay $50 per day for a temporary business permit."

Where do you draw the line? When you demand that government do everything for you, how can you say that you're living your life at all? It's not your life if you're not doing anything for it.

Privacy? Many liberals decry the invasive policies of the TSA and their airport security procedures. Of wire-tapping and demanding that cell-phone companies cooperate in anti-terrorist activities, to name two examples. Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. If you're demanding that government should provide everything in your life, then you don't get to complain when they take that extra mile forward that you allowed them to take. You let them in the door.

It's like a home invasion in one sense. If you open the door for the robber and say "come on in," you don't get to demand that they only take the broken microwave that's sitting on the counter. The robber will also take that nice brand-spanking new TV you just bought.

This is an honest question to all of you out there: where DO you draw that line? How much government intrusion is too much?

Lawn mowing? Lemonade stands? Diet? Should there be a Department of Diet Control that you submit your grocery list to every week and they strike off the stuff that's bad for you? Where they come and inspect your home every week to make sure you're not hiding any candy or cookies, especially if you have two kids? Where they weigh all of your kids and take them away from you if they've become too big because you're obviously a bad parent?

I don't think any of you want that. I hope you don't.

So why do you want them running any other aspect of your life?

It just boggles my mind.

Why do you trust the government to make one choice for you but not another? The common perception is that all politicians are crooks, or greedy, or corrupt, or out for themselves, or whatever. Nobody likes a politician, and such has been the feeling for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Remember that old Mark Twain quote? "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

And you want these people making your life choices?

Up here in Canada (and I'm sure there are similar things in the States, or maybe they exist down there too), there is an excellent charitable organization called "Meals on Wheels." This charity delivers meals to seniors who have trouble making their own meals and who can't get out of the house and down to the store. They don't have anybody else to help provide for them, so this service is a godsend. In Calgary at least, they also serve a number of schools where kids are not having their nutritional needs met.

This is a charity, with volunteers and donations. It's not a government program. If it were a government program, it would be so fraught with waste, abuse and bureaucracy that it wouldn't be funny.

There used to be a time where we all looked out for each other. Society as a whole took care of its own. Families looked after their loved ones; churches looked out for their flocks. Charities took care of those who couldn't help themselves and had nobody else.

We have developed a society recently with a "me-first" mentality. These people not only don't look after their fellow human beings, but have instilled a "I don't need to do it because the government will" attitude as well.

It's all a vicious circle. When we demand government do everything for us, we figure that the government will help so we don't have to. Since nobody's actually helping anybody, the government steps in, blasting through that open door that this mentality has provided it.

How can we break this cycle?

I wish I knew. But if we don't, society will continue to deteriorate to the point where it's unsalvageable.

If it's not already there.

*Edit* Just came across this brilliant quote from an otherwise not-so-brilliant President Gerald Ford, which sums it up beautifully.

"A government big enough to give us anything is strong enough to take everything"


  1. Well stated. I am no fan of nanny laws either. With that in mind, though, I think the government should not insert itself in a woman's uterus. And while I would love for the government not to be involved in healthcare, something really needs to be done about our healthcare system and its out of control costs. It's at a point at which most people truly can't afford to be sick or hurt, even if they have insurance (and 47 million people do not have insurance, which means that those who do end up paying).

    In case you're wondering, I voted Libertarian. I think it would be wonderful if the Republicans would get out of bed with the religious right. If they did that, I might be more willing to vote for Republican candidates.

    1. Morality is another area, and it's debatable how much government should be involved in that too. But that partially depends on your feelings on the subject to begin with (not really interested in starting an abortion debate, so I'll stop there).

      As for healthcare, there has to be a happy medium. The system does need reform. But remember that of that 47 million, it's a far smaller number that we really should be concerned with.

      A number of them are young people who don't *want* insurance (I guess they don't believe anything can happen to them), illegal immigrants who shouldn't be adding to the nation's cost burden, those who can afford insurance but choose not to purchase it because they pay as they go, millionaires who can also pay as they go, people eligible for public insurance who for some reason haven't signed up, etc.

      Yes, the system needs to be fixed for those who truly need it. But it's not the huge problem it's been made out to be. And there are options out there that don't involve the government taking it over.

  2. As a military brat/wife, I am already familiar with what happens when the government runs healthcare. I get my healthcare from the military system, which pretty much sucks. But it's still better than nothing. I have been without health insurance. It was when I was young and broke. I actually did end up getting sick and stuck paying the list price for the healthcare I got. Luckily, I had some money saved-- was living with my parents at the time and saving up for my own place. The ER and doctor's bill wiped out my savings. I couldn't afford to get follow up care and was luckily resilient enough not to need it.

    After that experience, I bought health insurance and refuse to be without it. When I married Bill, I was eligible for Tricare again, but I didn't give up my private health insurance for two years after I got married because I hate the military system so much.

    Eventually, I gave up my insurance and went with Tricare because private health insurance was just so damn expensive! I didn't have the kind of job that paid for insurance and we were broke. Also, we had moved outside the benefit area provided by my carrier, so that meant we would have had to switch and possibly pay even more.

    I think a lot of people are in that situation now. If you get sick and have to get medical care, it can and will wipe you out financially. You might also lose your job, which means that you will eventually lose your insurance or pay for COBRA. Young people need to learn the importance of being insured... Either that, or we need to do away with the middle man that is insurance and force health care providers to cut their prices. That will never happen, though.

    1. Yeah, unfortunately that will probably never happen.

      I don't disagree that some things need to be fixed. The "hows" are subject to debate, of course.

      And some people are having trouble even knowing what needs to be fixed to begin with, unfortunately.

  3. I have to say I always find it interesting whenever people say 'Democrats (insert overgeneralization here)....' or 'Republicans (insert overgeneralization here)....' The world has developed so much and yet, Americans still have two major parties to choose from. And these two parties have very narrow views of how to run the government. Personally, I don't mind my tax dollars going to make sure an elderly person with limited funds isn't living under a bridge somewhere but I certainly don't want to pay for some woman to have child after child while she lives on government funding. I'm not sure if the entitlement attitude came AFTER the programs were put in place or if the programs were put in place by 'demand'. Either way the programs need serious revamping by our government and serious attitude adjustments by everyone.

    1. Thanks, Raquel. The government does definitely have a role in some things, that is true.

      It would be interesting to know which came first. I honestly don't know. But whichever did, it's an entitlement mentality that has to change if there is any hope to fix society.


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