Townhall columnist John Stossel penned an insightful and unsettling article yesterday entitled, “Hurtling Down the Road to Serfdom.” Here’s what caught my eye. Stossel’s premise is that “we are changing from independent, self-responsible people into a submissive flock. The welfare state kills the creative spirit.”
That’s a strong statement. But Stossel cites data released by the Tax Foundation which documents “60% of the population now gets more in government benefits than it pays in taxes.” Better read that again—it’s unreal! Stossel asks, “What does it say about a society in which more than half the people live at the expense of the rest?”
This is troubling on several levels.
Speaking as a businessman, a nation cannot survive economically when the majority of its people are contributing less than they are consuming. Why? A culture with more “takers” than “makers” is simply an unsustainable financial model. At some point the makers cannot make enough.
What’s more, a culture of takers invites government regulation which equates into less freedom for all—both takers and makers.
And then there’s the Judeo-Christian perspective. We know that mankind was created in the image of God and, like our Creator, you and I have been invited to participate in the divine act of creating, constructing and cultivating new things.
Look no further than the “creative play” that a child engages in with dolls or Hotwheels or a pile of logs in the yard. From childhood, we see evidence of the imagination at work, dreaming, envisioning, inventing and, yes, creating. And it is the act of creating that ultimately leads to production and provision.
When I create, I produce. When I produce, I reap provision.
If what Stossel points out is true, namely, that the welfare state kills the creative spirit, then we would do well to resist the temptation of moving toward a Mommy State in which the government bails us out of every crisis (i.e. GM, AIG, Fannie Mae, banks, cash-for-clunkers, expanded unemployment compensation). History demonstrates that government bailouts create a cycle of dependency while stifling the pursuit of creative solutions and productivity.
Stossel says, “If government relieves us of the responsibility of living by bailing us out, character will atrophy. The welfare state, however good its intentions of creating material equality, can’t help but make us dependent. That changes the psychology of society.”
He’s right. As a dad, I don’t do my sons any favor if I bail them out every time they get into a pickle. Why? Because if they come to believe good ‘ol dad will bail ‘em out, they have no incentive to avoid the circumstances leading up to what got them in trouble in the first place. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.