It occurs to me as I’m writing about US domestic policies that to this point I’m coming off pretty liberal-democrat. Well, in some cases that’s true, but in others, it’s not. Im a strong supporter of capitalism who recognizes that there are real and significant areas where this system either fails or doesn’t provide any solution. In these situations, I think it’s entirely appropriate for the government to step in.
I do believe the government has a strong role to play in individual welfare, for example
- Providing equal opportunity to individuals with a high-quality education and protection from discrimination.
- Providing universal access to quality healthcare.
- Ensuring that those who are truly incapable of taking care of themselves are cared for.
On the other hand, I don’t think it’s the role of the government to
- Provide unconditional welfare or support to those who are able bodied
- Pitt the working class against businesses
- Punish those who have seized their opportunities and done well for themselves through unreasonably high taxes
In my view, this is where individual responsibility kicks in. And that’s where the democratic party often gets it wrong. Once a society has provided an individual access to opportunity – through education, a fair legal system, etc – it is up to that individual to make the most of it. If the person seizes the opportunity, society benefits as does the individual. If the individual doesn’t seize the opportunity. Well, we need uneducated workers too. It’s just that, statistically speaking, their wages are going to be far lower than a college graduate. Don’t want to work? Too bad. Neither do I.
Our government, particularly under democratic party leadership, has spent decades trying to establish a system where individuals were no longer accountable for their actions. Don’t have a job? Don’t worry, the government will provide for you. The problem is, by destroying individual responsibility and de-linking individual performance from own reward, you undermine societal and personal productivity. That’s why communism doesn’t work. Every communist state except North Korea (impoverished) and Cuba (impoverished) has failed. China and Vietnam are no longer communist. They are capitalist with a totalitarian political system. The reason they failed was the destruction of individual incentives and personal responsibility. Work hard on the farm today? Great, here’s your 20 ruppies. Didnt work so hard today? Great, here’s your 20 ruppies. Time after time we have seen this system fail.
Let’s dissect a couple of social issues that I think can be significantly clarified.
Take the role of society in supporting unwed mothers, a favorite beneficiary of the traditional liberal establishment. For too many years the societal answer was to put them on welfare and support the family. This had the perverse effect of creating a cycle of welfare and decaying morals among those we were trying to help. Here is just one example of how this could play out:
- An unfortunate woman got pregnant out of wedlock.
- If the father is around, the mother gets no child support or medical coverage for her children if she marries him. So she stays unwed. The father, if he’s around, feels a reduced sense of responsibility.
- If the father isn’t around, the mother really has almost no choice but to go on welfare, but is forced into living in slums/impoverished neighborhoods because of the low level of support.
- The children grow up without a strong father figure, in a poor neighborhood, never knowing anyone in the family that works, and therefore lacking the strong role model that will help them get educated, break the cycle and get out of poverty. They also grow up with a sense that the government owes them something.
- The children repeat the cycle when they grow up.
There is a better way. First, everyone should be guaranteed health care. Second, if the family income is low, the government should pay for the child care costs. Third, the mother gets neither if she doesn’t work.
Let’s also clarify that this doesn’t mean there is no role for the government for those truly in need. People with physical and mental disabilities, for example, should never be left behind. Some of them have families to support them, others don’t, but we should never let these people suffer for something they cannot control.
Look, the Democrats did a fantastic job over the past 100 years:
- Civil rights: check
- Women’s rights: check
- Get out of Vietnam: check
- Social safety net: check
But I think they are somewhat rudderless and without a major “cause” that can galvanize the country like these major societal issues. They should check out my articles on Healthcare, Education, Immigration and Global Warming for issues that can bring the country together.
Barack Obama has his work cut out for him, and he would be wise to heed this creed.