Self-Reliance versus Government Paternalism
For quite some time now, the nation has been subject to the news from the long campaign to see which Republican will face off against President Obama in the November election. Every policy position, every gaffe and misstep, every utterance is analyzed under the microscope of public opinion and the bloviations of the paid and unpaid punditry alike, looking for some morsel of insight or some new angle from which to attack.
One may wonder if this has always been the case, and if not, why is it so now? The answer is that the importance of the office of the presidency has magnified exponentially over the last century due to the fact that we have seen a steady erosion in the philosophy and doctrine of federalism (restricting government power overall, and allocating decision-making to the most local level possible so as to be always answerable to the people), and a steady increase in the size and scope of government in our lives. Therefore, the decision as to who will be president has taken on an enormous importance because the office has become so powerful that the decisions made by the president have a ripple effect that can at times feel like a tsunami.
Under the ObamaCare bill, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has enormous power in dictating how a fifth of the U.S. economy will be directed. That is not an elected position answerable to the voters and taxpayers (unfortunately, the two are not synonymous), but a position appointed by the president, with the advise and consent of the Senate (theoretically at least, as evidenced by the new Obama precedent in which he feels he can now be the sole determiner of when the Senate is actually in session). Likewise, the IPAB (Independent Patient Advisory Board), alias “death panel”, is an appointed board which will determine how much and what type of medical care you may receive and at what price point you will be cut off from further treatment.
Similarly, the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) is made up of five unelected members, appointed to oversee labor issues. Last year the NLRB tried to shut down Boeing’s new, billion dollar airplane factory in South Carolina, all because the labor union at Boeing’s Washington plant did not like Boeing building the new plant in a right-to-work state. Boeing had not cut jobs at the Washington plant, and in fact had added thousands of jobs there, but that did not matter. Unelected bureaucrats were able to use their power to put pressure on Boeing to give in to the extortion attempts of the labor unions, and eventually Boeing did give in.
Shortly after taking office, Obama used his power to unilaterally wipe away decades of bankruptcy law, stealing from secured creditors to give lavish concessions to his supporters in the auto worker unions. Suffering from such heavy-handedness and contempt for the law by this president were many members of the American middle class, workers who had invested in stock portfolios which had significant portions of the stock in the car companies. So Obama was able to hold press conferences in which he claimed to be the champion of the middle class, all while stabbing the middle class in the back and decimating their retirement accounts.
Today, the president is just the most powerful of the many politicians who make a living (literally) by promising to make life “fair”, by which they mean that they will take money from one group of people and give it to another group of people. Fairness, or justice, used to mean that the law protected you from having your life, liberty, or property taken from you without due process. Now it means taking from the politically expendable and giving to the politically expedient. A perfect example is Social Security, which (from a strictly actuarial standing, the former having notably shorter life spans than the latter) takes tax money from black men and gives it to white women.
Then of course we also have the myriad other redistribution schemes like Medicare and Medicaid, corporate subsidies, manipulation of the tax code to produce desired behavior, not to mention the trillions upon trillions of dollars that have been spent in the name of the “War on Poverty” and the utopian schemes of central planners seeking to create a perfectly ordered society where each supposedly will have an equal amount of everything…
…except that life is not fair, and people are not born equal in anything except the eyes of the law. People are born with different skills and aptitudes. Their life experience gives them different levels of ambition, different goals and desires, different definitions of what gives their life meaning. For some, especially those having grown up poor, it may be of critical importance to have absolute financial security, to have enough money to provide for every catastrophe and eventuality. For others, money may be less important, and it may be more important to have a moderate income in exchange for having more time with family and in pursuit of other things that make them happy.
That is the brilliance of our form of government, at least the way it was devised, if not the way it is currently implemented. It offers equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome, which is crucial because not everyone wants the same outcome. We don’t all have the same definition as to what constitutes quality of life.
My wife and I have been together since we were fourteen years old, and we married at nineteen; the year or two before we married, she was living with her father in Arizona, and working as the executive assistant for the manager of a large recycling company. Upon tendering her resignation, she was not only offered a raise and a company car, but the company offered to hire me and pay my moving expenses to join her in Arizona. Yet her goal was not along the career path, but to be a wife and a mother to our children. Had she chosen the career path she would have been exceptional. She is among the most intelligent and naturally gifted people I have ever met. Luckily for me, she chose to make a home for us, to be my wife and counselor (and if anyone needs counseling, it’s me…she often calls me her oldest child), and to be a mother and a teacher for our eight beautiful children. That decision twenty years ago has blessed my life immensely.
In the end, government attempting to micromanage our lives through taxation, regulation and compulsion will lead only to failure and heartbreak. It does not make things fairer, and it does not make us freer. It does not make us happier, or give us an equal amount of “stuff”. It simply breeds contempt, jealousy and anger and causes divisions among us. It kills off the drive of the entrepreneurial spirit. It leads to complacency and sloth.
If we are wise, we will learn not to depend on the president, or any politician for that matter, for our basic needs, our well-being or our quality of life. If we are wise, we will depend first and foremost on God Almighty, that giver of natural law which transcends any man-made law. We will depend on the talents He gave us, combined with the sweat of our own brow. We will depend on family and friends, church and community. For when we do so, and in the process make government only a minor part of our lives, we increase freedom, we increase happiness, we increase ingenuity and self-reliance. We will find satisfaction in that self-sufficiency and in doing so we will become better citizens and neighbors.