“There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
What ever happened to the idea of self-reliance? Americans were once very familiar with this concept. The American dream was birthed from the hips of self-reliance. By living free, working hard, and engaging in a little bit of capitalism, everyone has the chance to achieve his or her dreams. But, when self-reliance is replaced by big government, the American dream stops right there. The government can neither make successful people nor make people successful. American government did not make America a successful nation! The American people have made her what she is today.
How do we best help those around us? By putting our time and our money to good use. A lot of people in America are hurting right now. People are losing jobs left and right and those that were already just scraping by are having an even harder time. Many (if not most) of us automatically look to the government to carry the burdens of those in need. We are told the answer to our economic woes lies in a “stimulus” package of government-controlled spending. Where did we get this idea that the only way to help people in dire straits is to throw government-funded programs at them (as if money and material goods would solve long-term problems, anyway).
And since when did government programs solve any real problems? In his book, The Next Great Depression (How Government Programs Prolong Rather than Correct Depressions) author Mark W. Hendrickson states:
The main lesson we need to learn from the Great Depression is that government programs prolong, rather than correct depressions…The most important fact to understand about economic depressions is that they are not natural phenomena of market economies, but the product of repeated, ongoing government interference with markets.
Government programs are not working and, instead, are hurting our fellow Americans. Rather than helping people get through a temporary slump, we are creating a populace of desperate, undereducated, underachieving, lazy Americans. A definite pattern has been created as government assistance grows alongside families, carrying from generation to generation. What do we do when the hard working middle class becomes outnumbered by those who are no longer “bringing home the bacon?”
When the government takes control of everything, we lose. The truth of the matter is, a smaller government is a better government, or, more simply, less is more. We may not even realize what we are giving away to our government. When it comes down to it, we are not just losing our means of living but also our dignity and our freedom. And even if our big nanny government had the right to take matters into its own hands, are the American people really in their best interest? Nick Adama, writer for the website and blog ForeclosureFish, wrote an article slamming the housing bailout:
So now the Fed is left to its favorite tool of inflating the money supply and causing the dollar to fall in value. The price of goods like food and energy are going up dramatically, which hurts the people who need to eat and go to work in order to pay their mortgage. But it bails out the banks and helps them cover their poor lending practices. From changing the bankruptcy laws in 2005, to manipulating interest rates from 2001-2006, to injecting tens of billions of inflated dollars into failing banks, much of what government purports to be helping the average person instead only serves to take what little money they are allowed to keep after paying taxes.
We are teaching Americans a very sorry way of life. If a person learns to depend on handouts for their every need, they are living a desperate and unfulfilling life. Emotionally, physically, and mentally it is not good for any person to live off another person’s wealth for an extended period of time. How can anyone find pleasure in a day if he grows nothing, builds nothing, succeeds in nothing?
We are breeding a nation of people who don’t know the feeling of a good hard day’s work. The American dream is dwindling and being replaced for a sham life of barely getting by and watching our children barely getting by. Rush Limbaugh said it best in his recent speech
at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC):
We have transferred something like 10 trillion, maybe close to 11 trillion, from producers and earners to nonproducers and nonearners since 1965. Yet, as I listen to the Democratic Party campaign, why, America is still a soup kitchen, the poor is still poor and they have no hope and they're poor for what reason? They're poor because of us, because we don't care, and because we've gotten rich by taking from them, that's what kids in school are taught today. That's what others have said to the media. You know why they're poor, you know why they remain poor? Because their lives have been destroyed by the never-ending government hay that's designed to help them, but it destroys ambition. It destroys the education they might get to learn to be self-fulfilling. And it breaks our heart. It breaks our heart.
But is that fair? Even the self-reliant may find themselves poor. Some believe it is not fair for one person to live paycheck-to-paycheck and another to make millions. But if you limit the millionaire’s success then you limit everyone. How can we achieve the American dream if there is a cap on how successful you can be? You can't motivate someone to work hard at being successful if there's nothing worth striving for. The self-reliant worker must have the chance to succeed, or he won’t. When the self-reliant worker does succeed enterprise is created leading to more jobs and more money being pumped into the economy; everyone wins.
It is good to be charitable, but forced charity is clearly wrong. If I do give money to charity, I should be able to choose which charities I want to put my money into. Under the current system, we can't even choose whether our taxes are going to pay for an orphanage or an abortion. How is that fair?
Government programs make the wealthy lazy too. How can we take care of each other if the government’s hands are already in our pockets? Why would we try if we think other people are already taken care of? Instead of giving extra to benefit local charities or churches or spending our extra time to visit an orphanage or a soup kitchen, we are led to believe the government is taking care of these people. We assume our orphans’ and widows’ needs are being looked after. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.
The simple truth is the government cannot spend your hard earned money better than you can. It might be easier to let the government worry about those in need, but just how well is the government performing this job? Are the people receiving these extra funds really able to change their lives years down the road? Michael Tanner, Senior Fellow of CATO Institute, said the following about government programs
back in 2006:
In fact, despite nearly $9 trillion in total welfare spending since Lyndon Johnson declared War on Poverty in 1964, the poverty rate is perilously close to where it was when we began, more than 40 years ago.
Clearly we are doing something wrong. Throwing money at the problem has neither reduced poverty nor made the poor self-sufficient. But government welfare programs have torn at the social fabric of the country and been a significant factor in increasing out-of-wedlock births with all of their attendant problems. They have weakened the work ethic and contributed to rising crime rates. Most tragically of all, the pathologies they engender have been passed on from parent to child, from generation to generation.
How can we be self-reliant ourselves when we are bearing the burden of those who are not? Assuming that individuals have a right to certain goods or services is problematic, for one, because it imposes on someone else the corresponding obligation to provide that which is demanded.
I should not be obligated to pay for the mortgage of the family down the street or to keep the fiscally irresponsible banks afloat. Even if my children and I wanted to pay for all of this, is it even possible?
America is prosperous, but that will change very quickly as coming generations are expected to carry today’s burdensome debt. As a person who is still paying off my own student loan debt, I know all too well the burden of carrying a large amount of debt while raising a family and trying to make ends meet. It is not the American way of life; don’t let anyone fool you into thinking it is.
I do think some Americans get it or are starting to get it. Douglas E. Schoen and Scott Rasmussen in their article,
“Obama’s Poll Numbers Are Falling to Earth
,” showed what Americans think of our government since the new administration started flexing its muscles.
Only less than a quarter of Americans believe that the federal government truly reflects the will of the people. Almost half disagree with the idea that no one can earn a living or live "an American life" without protection and empowerment by the government, while only one-third agree.
Self-reliance may be the key to individuals, families, and communities surviving the next ten years of our economy. I don’t believe all hope is lost, but the time to act is now. As Mark W. Hendrickson writes:
The good news is that, like Scrooge on Christmas Eve, we still have a chance to recognize our past mistakes, change our course, and spare ourselves a grim and unhappy fate.