Column on Entitlement Foibles

Entitlement Foibles

Tibor R. Machan

Gloating
as they are too often wont to do, modern welfare state liberals are
eager to point out that when it comes to proposing cuts in government
spending, many who advocate it will not be specific. Even more telling,
the liberals hold, is the fact that few if any will proclaim Social
Security and Medicare a target of such cuts.

Perhaps
this makes sense even when one sincerely wants the government to reduce
it scope of involvement in society–to become, in short, truly limited
as the American Founders wanted it to be and as, in any case, it ought
to be.  Let’s see.  

Social
security is often believed to be an insurance program, albeit one that
is forced on people, yet still, the money taken for it is regarded by
most who paid into it as theirs, so getting it out is naturally seen as
simply having one’s funds returned in old age.  Perhaps the idea of
cutting social security is viewed with suspicion, as a way to rob people
of what belongs to them and not as a reduction of government spending
at all. Moreover, very likely few people have a clue just how the
program could be removed from the government, how it might be
privatized, especially after the “liberals”–it always sticks in my
throat to call them that–have been working overtime demonizing
privatization (even when it would only involve a relatively small
percentage of the amount now taken from those who must pay into the
system).  

Medicare,
too, has become something of a fixture and while there are pretty clear
cut ways in which the free market could handle the insurance it amounts
to, one can easily appreciate that few people have looked closely and
hard at just how that might be done.  Once people get used to being on
the dole, especially for something the demagogues insist is their due by
now, the very notion that they might get rid of it will strike most of
them as implausible.  Just float the idea of privatizing public
education, or even public libraries, not to mention public parks and
forests and airports!  Most folks are unfamiliar with the work that has
been done to show that all of this is quite feasible.

I
remember when as a teen I was living in Germany where television and
radio, not to mention trains and planes and virtually all other means of
transport, were government run.  To even suggest that this is not only
economically silly but also an unjust sharing of benefits and burdens
among people with very different needs and desire was met with
incredulity. Surely this is to be expected of people whose ancestors
were the mere subjects of various rulers, ones who rarely considered
them to be self-responsible, who treated them as invalids or infants in
most matters of concern.  

In
short, the governmental habit is difficult to shake–just like any
narcotic–once one becomes acclimated to the benefits.  The burdens are
often hidden, or sold as part of being a citizen (or some similar ruse).
 And in comparison to how most people throughout the globe used to be
treated by their rulers (!), the welfare state is a relatively mild
oppressor.  So when dismantling it is widely promoted to be cruel and
nasty, the fact that doing so would be quite unusual, too, can make
advocating such dismantling rather onerous, politically hazardous.

Ayn
Rand once wrote a column, if I recall right, titled “It’s Earlier Than
You Think,” suggesting that even Americans, with their unique and
exceptional political tradition stressing individual rights, aren’t
quite ready to accept the responsibility of living in a
bona fide
free country.  They are still suffering from the illusions associated
with ancient regimes and with modern statism, given how many reputable
people–at colleges and universities and in the media across the
land–clamor for these.  (Just consider that nearly all of our
educational institutions live off government!)   

So
it is a cheap shot to point out that critics of the bloated state do
not always know quite what to say when asked for what in particular they
would remove from its jurisdiction.  Virtually everything, I think, can
be done by people throughout the rest of society and government should
only handle what the Founders said, “to secure our rights.”  But this is
still a revolutionary notion, not comfortable on the lips of
politicians and the people considering supporting them

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