Tuesday, September 10, 2013
By Stephen L. Goldfinch Jr.
More and more people are becoming dependent upon the government. It’s a fact that requires serious debate and will certainly test the bounds of our collective moral and ethical obligations to the individual and our country. The purpose of this piece is to encourage necessary dialog among neighbors, friends and family.
Slavery in Biblical times was typically precipitated by two different motivations. One individual sought to enslave another for personal gain, against the will of the enslaved. The other impetus behind slavery was somewhat more complex. The individual who initiated enslavement was the slave himself. He desired to enslave himself to pay off a debt. For many, it was the only solution, especially when one had no marketable skills for employment.
America showed a general distaste for slavery dating even prior to the Civil War. Today, the mention of slavery sends shivers down the backs of most red-blooded Americans. Our rich and cherished history precludes a tolerance for such things. I would contend, however, that slavery, economic slavery to be more specific, is alive and well in this great republic.
A dependence on anything but for our God, be it a drug or a government, should be loathed by Americans. Dependence creates a very palpable despondency among those that need the most “hope.” The truly dependent hold hope in their hands like a telescope holds the sun in its lens. It can be seen, and perhaps felt, but never actually obtained. Those that sell hope through the conduit of dependency offer nothing but economic slavery, albeit with good intentions. The reason this is less than obvious to the voters is that dependency is often shrouded in hope itself and called “a better tomorrow,” or “fairness.”
James Madison said, “Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love if they are not first the objects of our knowledge.” According to the Heritage Foundation, between 1988 and 2011, the U.S. population receiving government assistance grew by 62%. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 128 million people are on the government dole. That means that over 41% of the population is enrolled in at least one federal assistance program. What’s just as concerning is that in 2010 over 70% of all federal spending went to dependence-creating programs. With over 41% of the population either on a track of dependency or apathy, it’s no wonder that the United States continues to vote for politicians that resemble Santa Claus more than George Washington.
This problem, though seemingly overwhelming is fixable. Those who despise dependency and its resulting economic slavery must take a stand and educate others. Our Founders understood the evils of dependency and a permanent ruling class. Because of their brilliance, we have inherited the world’s most philanthropic, most imaginative and most free country ever known to man. The roadmaps used to create this Land of the Free are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Declaration tells us “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among those are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Our public servants would be well served to read and memorize the first few lines of the Declaration. Many would like to believe that our government was designed to be a strong centralized institution, with safety nets for all. In fact, the exact opposite becomes clear when reading the Original Documents. Certain functions of the government are designed to be strong and centralized, such as our military. My reading of the Declaration and the Constitution lead me to believe that the federal government was designed to be small and nimble, and that the states and more specifically the people were to hold the balance of the power. The Founders understood that the pursuit of happiness rather than the guarantee was key to the citizens remaining sovereign; a reality that our modern leaders have trouble embracing. Couched in the flowery language of a politician’s tongue is the real promise, not of freedom, but of economic bondage.
Economic freedom, however, is delicate in its growth, but a raging bull in its maturity. We must educate our children and ourselves in the merits of self-preservation through the liberty of capitalism, rather than through the economic slavery of despotism. We must teach the freedoms inherently contained within earning an honest day’s wage, rather than the crippling effects of owing a debt to one’s master. We must teach that government programs do not have the effect of getting one through a tough time, but rather keeping one in a tough time. We must breathe life back into this generation of dependency, transforming them into a society of wealth and prosperity. It can be done, but it won’t be done with a government program.
Stephen Goldfinch represents portions of Georgetown and Charleston counties in the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.