Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”     Thomas Sowell

December 1, 2006

Why Americans Love The State

by Doug Mataconis

Walter E. Williams unlocks the reason that Americans seem to have rejected the Founders ideal of a small, limited government:

At least two-thirds of the federal budget represents programs that force one American to serve the purposes of another. Younger workers are forced to pay for the prescriptions of older Americans; people who are not farmers are forced to serve those who are; nonpoor people are forced to serve poor people; and the general public is forced to serve corporations, college students and other special interests who have the ear of Congress.

The supreme tragedy that will lead to our undoing is that so far as personal economic self-interests are concerned, it is perfectly rational for every American to seek to live at the expense of another American. Why? Not doing so doesn’t mean he’ll pay lower federal taxes. All it means is there will be more money for somebody else.
In other words, once Congress establishes that one person can live at the expense of another, it pays for everyone to try to do so. You say, “Williams, don’t you believe in helping your fellow man?” Yes, I do. I believe that reaching into one’s own pockets to help one’s fellow man is both laudable and praiseworthy. Reaching into another’s pockets to help one’s fellow man is despicable and worthy of condemnation.
The bottom line: We love government because it enables us to accomplish things that if done privately would lead to arrest and imprisonment. For example, if I saw a person in need, and I took your money to help him, I would be arrested and convicted of theft. If I get Congress to do the same thing, I am seen as compassionate.

Until that mentality changes, the prospects for the long-term success of liberty seem grim.

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  1. [...] Below, Doug posted about Americans’ greater propensity to simply accept that the intrusive state is here to stay, and have actually gotten used to and attached to it. I find that the place I’ve been able to begin to break this mindset is to show the few places where the government and private industry compete on a level playing field. One specific example is competetition between UPS/FedEx and the USPS. [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers»Blog Archive » The Right Step For Oil Consumption — December 1, 2006 @ 8:18 am

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