One of the greatest threats to individual liberty is dependency on the state. Yet, over the last four years, America has experienced a surge in those trading economic freedom for government dependency. The “land of the free” is now responsible for a vast portion of the population living off the means of others and there seems to be no end in sight. The issue is laced with moral implications; those who see no problem with living off the hard work and sweat of others, as much as it is the economic ramifications of the unsustainable course America has currently chosen.
Out is the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” legacy of the rugged individualist and fashionable is the “you earned it so I deserve it” generation. I see this first hand when I end up in the check-out line with my carefully budgeted buggie of groceries behind customers with designer purses, iPhone 5s and EBT cards. And every time I’m as baffled as the time before. How did wanting to help the least among us turn into the culture of dependency so prevalent today?
Could part of it be that we’re governed by an administration that’s produced a climate where food stamp growth is seventy-five times greater than job growth? Maybe, but it started over fifty years ago with the utopian goals of the “Great Society” which, have not only never materialized, but have actually made our dependency deeper and more destructive on the whole.
Yet, there is a solution. Milton Friedman argued that capitalism and philanthropy go hand in hand. He argued that the greatest time of economic freedom in American history saw the greatest display of chartible giving:
The period of unrestrained, rugged individualism was a period when the modern type of nonprofit community hospital was first established and developed. It was the period of the Carnegie Libraries and their spread through the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie. It was the period when so many colleges were founded throughout the country. It was the period of the founding of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the spread of foreign missions. There was no income tax, no deductibility of contributions, so what people spent on charity came out of their pocket and not, as now, largely out of taxes they would otherwise pay. And yet, in every aspect of private charitable activity, it was a boom period.
But is it enough to expect that communication of free market principles will cure the plague of dependency? Of course not. All great ideas remain ideas until deployed into action. Actively volunteering and connecting in communities is the best antivenom for the poison of dependency. There’s an overreaching social problem that’s at the center of the dependency epidemic; lack of value in the human experience. Working with communities that need us most, building strong relationships and showing people their value, not only in their own lives, but in the lives of others is the best way to make dependency undesirable. There’s something hardwired in most people that leads to an irreplaceable sense of accomplishment once a task is completed or an obstacle is successfully surmounted; something that must be re-stiched into our social fabric.
Brandon Darby, writer and activist, often stresses the value of building face to face relationships. A converted leftist, he understands better than most how the left leverages community organizing for political gain. “You can get the data from consultants, but you can’t get the relationships with the people the data is collected from,” he said. This is where we are generally weak — pounding the pavement and getting involved in communities to help individuals realize their potential. Looking at the next four years, this is a great opportunity for freedom-loving individuals to help others achieve the belief in their own self worth that places them on the path to economic freedom.
Of course these issues spread well beyond the realm of partisan politics. We didn’t create a generation of dependency overnight and we certainly can’t expect it to change course in one election cycle. This is the long game. This is about working dilligently to restore to America the values that made us great and the values that maximize individual liberty, responsibility and independence.
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