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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Welfare-State Dependency in America


How pathetic to see the executives of American automobile companies on their knees before the members of Congress, begging them to use taxpayer monies to bail them out of their financial difficulties. What a fine example of what the welfare state has done to Americans.

Self-reliance? Alas, a quaint and obsolete term that has no place in the modern-day welfare-state society. What now characterizes so many Americans is dependency on the government. Over a period of many decades, the political class has made Americans dependent on the state for their retirement, healthcare, unemployment pay, education, food, subsidies, loans, and much, much more.

The entire package of goodies that government provides to the citizenry could easily be described as welfare-state heroin.

Even more damaging than the dependency itself is the mindset of dependency that the welfare state has inculcated in the modern-day American. So many people honestly believe that they would never be able to survive, prosper, and get educated without the state.

One sees this phenomenon in all age groups.

Among the elderly, the mindset is: “I could never survive without Social Security. I am totally dependent on the government. I would starve to death if the state didn’t send me my Social Security check every month.”

We see it also within the younger crowd. “My children would never get educated if the state didn’t provide schooling for them. And how would the poor ever get educated if the government didn’t provide it?”

Modern-day dependents on government have convinced themselves that the absence of a welfare state means the absence of government entirely. Thus, oftentimes they are shocked to learn that our American ancestors lived without a welfare state for more than 125 years and yet still had federal, state, and local governments. That’s right: no welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, subsidies, public (i.e., government) schooling, income taxation, and the like. Americans were once free to keep everything they earned and to decide for themselves what to do with it.

Despite all the maligning of 19th-century Americans that takes place in American schools and colleges (e.g., “They obviously hated their children because they sent them to work in dismal factories for long hours.”), the fact is that when Americans were free to keep everything they earned and to decide what to do with it, the result was the most prosperous and charitable society in history.

The reason for this was that people were saving large portions of their income, thereby producing the capital that is necessary to raise standards of living, and voluntarily donating other portions of their income to worthy causes. The savings built the businesses and industries that provided the jobs, and the charity built the churches, museums, and opera houses.

Among the chief characteristics of our American ancestors were self-reliance and a can-do spirit. The thought of looking to government to help them solve their problems would not even have occurred to most of them.

Ironically, in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century, thousands of immigrants were flooding American shores, fleeing the socialism of Europe in order to come to a land where it was “root hog or die” — a land where people were on their own, where government lacked the power and the means to provide sustenance to them or bail them out of their difficulties.

This is what our American ancestors defined as freedom. It was a concept of freedom that was totally contrary to the dependency-on-government concept that today’s Americans define as freedom.

Our ancestors rejected socialistic measure not just because they favored a free, self-reliant, and voluntary society. They also rejected it on moral grounds.

In a free society, consumers decide which businesses are going to stay in business and which ones are not. U.S. automobile companies have the right to ask people to buy their cars. They have the right to issue bonds asking people to loan them money. They have the right to raise money through the issuance of stock.

The automobile companies, however, have no moral right to force people to buy their products, fund their loans, and give them money. For that matter, no one else has that right either.

Yet, as they get down on their knees before the members of Congress, that’s precisely what U.S. automobile executives are doing. How shameful. How immoral.

Is it possible to restore a free society to our land, given the deep sense of dependency that the welfare state has produced within the citizenry?

Absolutely. All it takes is faith in ourselves, in others, in freedom, and in God, and an unwavering commitment to restore moral principles to our land.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.