Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” —Genesis 4:9
Conservatives Believe in People, Not the Government
A student asked me if I were a liberal or a conservative. I answered that I was a Constitutional conservative. The student wanted to know why: Are not liberals the good guys who want to help people? My answer to that question was, “No, liberals do not want to help people; they want the government to do it for them.”
Indeed, liberals want to empower the government to take more of your money away from you, so they can decide how to spend it for you. You cannot use that money anymore to choose your own medical insurance plan, since the government chooses for you. You cannot save as much for your old age or other contingencies you wish to plan for. The government grows in power, while you lose power; the government gains freedom, while you lose freedom. To quote Friedrich Hayek: “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.”
Government Programs Are Administratively Convenient
I do not believe in government’s wisdom to help you in the best way. I believe in your ability to know what is best for you and to spend your money in the most helpful way to solve your own problems and those of your family members. I believe in you, not in the government.
It is also cheaper for you to solve your own problems, for you are motivated to find the highest-quality solution at the best price to suit your need. Government specializes in one-size-fits-all solutions that are always more expensive than what you will find in a competitive marketplace.
Bureaucrats are not motivated, nor do they have the time, to acquaint themselves intimately with your circumstances, in order to find the best solution at the lowest price for your situation. So, government programs have to be administratively convenient and, therefore, will tend to lack user-friendly characteristics. And, since government programs are administered by bureaucrats who require payment, the cost of any program taken over by government must add to its normal operating expenses the additional costs of paying the administrative bureaucracy. (For example, with regard to politically-managed healthcare, the costs of doctors plus hospitals plus treatments transform into the costs of doctors plus hospitals plus treatments plus bureaucracy.)
Government Does Not Care, People Care
Since government entitlements are all monopolistic in nature, there are no market forces compelling them to compete by offering more quality for less cost. You cannot fire the government, if you are unhappy, and go hire another service provider. Also, government employees work on a pay scale that is seniority-based, not merit-based. This means that better customer service is not rewarded. There is no company to answer to, with a profit-motive to pressure workers to do more, work better, or be more caring.
If you ever thought government workers were fast, efficient, or caring, a trip to the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) would likely disabuse you of that notion. Unlike a business, where the customer is always right, the DMV bureaucrats are just as likely to be unfriendly and unhelpful as they are to be friendly and helpful. It is simply the luck of the draw what kind of person you end up with. Private industry pays people to care about you, the customer, in order to keep you coming back and to earn your recommendation to others. Government does not need to care about earning your business. You have to come back again the next time you need their monopoly service, anyway, since they are the only game in town.
Government Waste Harms People, Costs Lives
If you have a choice of how and where to spend your money, more quality is created, more jobs are created, more innovation occurs, and more lives are saved. When the stimulus bill was passed, under President Obama, the jobs created by the new law cost $278,000 each to create. This means that the creation of each coercive-sector, government job—which implemented rules or administered programs—destroyed an average of five-and-a-half jobs in the non-coercive, private sector by transferring to government the money that would have created those jobs.
The government jobs created were non-productive—adding no value to the economy as a whole—and the jobs destroyed were the human endeavors that innovate, produce, or disseminate such things as cures for deadly diseases, improvements in safety technology, and advances in education media. All of these things are potentially life-saving enhancements to the citizenry not only of the United States, but of the world at large.
Since companies, by losing productive jobs, create and distribute fewer life-saving and life-enhancing innovations, it is the solemn duty of the government to tax as little as possible, in order to free up financial resources for the greater benefit of our fellow human beings.
I Am My Brother’s Keeper, Not the Government
Before the big-government welfare state—and the tax increases to support it—Americans were their brothers’ keepers to a much greater extent than today, since they could afford to give more to charity. Private charities are more efficient than government welfare programs, because a very high percentage of every dollar donated is used to help the needy. The Salvation Army, for example, utilizes 92 cents of every dollar donated for those receiving help. Government is nowhere near as efficient, since only about 37 cents on the dollar of the government money designated for charity is actually received by intended recipients.
The average family of four in poverty, in America, earns $22,350 a year (see here: http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/11poverty.shtml). But a little over $61,000 a year is spent by government to help an average family in poverty (see here: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/over-60000-welfare-spentper-household-poverty_657889.html). So, after administrative costs have been absorbed, only about 37% of the government money designated for welfare makes it to the intended recipients. If we were to divide the 92 pennies on the dollar that the Salvation Army uses by the 37 cents of government, a figure of 2.49 would be arrived at. This would seem to indicate that money donated to the Salvation Army would go about two-and-a-half times further than money given to the government!
Charity donated locally is usually administered by workers and volunteers living in the area. This means that, when people come to receive help, their neighbors who are giving out the food, clothing, or financial support are in a position to recommend jobs that just opened up or other places to go for help. So, there is more efficient use of funds, more direct oversight of the programs, and more hands-on support of the people being helped in ways that only friends and neighbors could provide. There are more opportunities to be our brothers’ keepers, and politicians do not end up blackmailing the needy for their votes before the bestowal of financial favors can commence. This political management of charity turns the public welfare into a shameful source of political corruption.
Why Government Exists
President Ronald Reagan once said, “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” It is our families, friends, and neighbors who exercise the traditional role of helping to protect us from ourselves. Without government welfare programs, neighbors would probably know each other better and the number of births outside wedlock would be much lower.
The welfare state has destroyed neighborliness by redirecting requests for help from neighbors and family to the government; and to receive more help for rearing children, single mothers must choose not to do the three things that cancel out poverty: 1) get married, 2) work hard, and 3) save money. Before the welfare state, only 7% of black babies were born outside marriage, but today that percentage has risen to 71%.
Time to Try Freedom Again
Perhaps it is time to try freedom as a solution once again. Liberals trust the government and accept many compromises to freedom. But I believe that this trust has been misplaced. When people’s lives are politically managed, people’s freedom to make their own choices is stolen, and politicians become blackmailers of us all.
I think you should be allowed to keep your own money to the greatest extent possible. I believe in your ability to learn how to manage your resources and to do so better than the government could ever do it for you. I believe that, if you could keep more of your money, you could be trusted to help yourself and your loved ones. And such help would be more appropriate and more loving than any distant, impersonal bureaucrat could ever manage.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com