A disease, like everything, starts at, uh, the beginning.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan writes of America’s Crisis of Character. Ms. Noonan finds evidence of a decline in our level of maturity, so to speak, in some recent scandals – the GSA in Vegas, Secret Service in Columbia and others. She suggests that there aren’t enough grown-ups around; casual Friday has led to Ah-What-the-Hell Saturday thru Thursday.
Where’s the beginning? It doesn’t start with casual Friday. It’s deeper and wider than that.
The genesis of the decline is many-faceted and has innumerable beginnings. Hollywood, rap music, pop culture, excessive campaign spending, corporate greed, sexual promiscuity, Fox News, MSNBC, . . . the list is endless.
And, then there’s government policy. Some people object to high taxes. Some object to limits on government spending to fix what ails us.
This note suggested a different problem that I think is at the root of our national disease and our lack of discipline.
“It’s my money, stop taking it from me” is a common complaint. The additional, more important objection is about the effect of government’s use of the money it is taking from us. When the government exercises powers we haven’t granted it in our Constitution, that very act does harm to our country’s societal fabric, no matter its beneficent intentions. To ignore that document is to invite harm, in every instance. Any breach of that contract frays our bond to one another as sovereign individuals, as that, our individual sovereignty, is the essential component of the document. Any breach can not be said to affect only a few (the rich); any breach affects all; all men are created equal, and government favoring one person at the expense of another is antithetical to the document’s essence and purpose.
Welfare and other programs meant to help the ‘needy’ are perfect examples. The supposed beneficiaries of government largesse are being enslaved. Those programs abet dependency and drown the dignity of self-reliance. Our primary moral obligation – the responsibility to ourselves to live productively – is displaced by the skill of gaming the system. Don’t produce, we’ll take care of you, is the standard. Access is the coin of the realm.
Inevitably, living by that standard produces nothing, or, nothing except conceit and rivalry. Along the way, there’s a widening disconnect between two classes of society, and the government expands to fill the void. The producers, the ‘rich’ are absolved of any responsibility (“I gave at the [IRS] office”). The ‘poor’ are taught they owe an allegiance to Uncle Sam, rather than a ‘thank you’ to their helpful neighbor or community church. They repay their benefactor with a vote, and the trade is even and closed. That finite trade displaces a better, ongoing trade, in which, if the help is truly helpful, it leads to an improved status and the ability to repay the favor by helping the next unlucky soul, and so on. My $1.00 for the panhandler is not given so he can buy his next meal, it’s given to enable his next productive act, else I keep the $1.00.
When the federal government replaces individuals and local communities as the dispenser of kindness, a downward spiral ensues. We experience a culture and set of societal norms that inspire us to wonder every day if we missed the memo that said there’s no longer any meaning to the words normal and responsible, no recognition of what the meaning of the word “is” is. We experience a crisis of character.
Lower government spending doesn’t help the rich, it frees the poor and builds national character.