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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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The Love of Liberty vs. the Love of Government


The real battle taking place in America is between the lovers of liberty and the lovers of government. That’s what the healthcare debate is all about. The lovers of government want the federal government to operate a healthcare program. The lovers of liberty prefer a free market in healthcare, that is, a market free of government interference.

The lasting legacy of the paternalistic welfare state is that it has produced a nation of government lovers. How? By making people dependent, in one way or another, on the welfare largess of the state. Once people began receiving such largess, independence and love of liberty went out the window.

Consider, for example, Social Security. For more than 150 years Americans lived without this paternalistic program. They retained everything they earned because there was no income taxation. They decided how much to save for their retirement. They decided how much to help their aging parents and others. They treasured the freedom to make these types of decisions.

Then, along came the Franklin Roosevelt regime, which got the idea of Social Security from Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of Germany, who himself had gotten the idea from German socialists. Elderly Americans were put on the dole, notwithstanding the fact, of course, that that first generation of Social Security recipients had not put anything into the system.

Roosevelt and his socialist cohorts knew precisely what Bismarck and the German socialists knew: that once people are placed on the dole, the way they look at government totally changes. People who previously viewed government as the major threat to their freedom and well-being now began seeing government as their provider, caretaker, and keeper. That’s when Americans began falling in love with the federal government.

It’s no different with healthcare. Look at the number of elderly people that are now on Medicare. I’d guess that 99 percent of them would never support an immediate and total repeal of this socialist program. They are as psychologically dependent on this program as an addict is to heroin. They could never imagine life without it. They love the government for having provided it to them. And, after all, it’s all free!

Whatever else might be said about Barack Obama, he is not a dumb man, any more than Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson were. Obama knows that if he can just get his government-run healthcare program enacted, that will expand the number of people who are dependent on the federal largess. What could warm the cockles of a socialist more than adding to the rolls of those who love the government as a result of their dependency on it?

Obama, like Roosevelt and Johnson, is also aware of a political fact: that once a socialist program comes into existence, it becomes difficult politically to get rid of it. That’s because few politicians will dare antagonize those people who are dependent on the dole by calling for its repeal. Instead, the magic word “reform” becomes the standard lexicon.

Socialists like to pretend that their programs are “free.” Of course, that’s just nonsense. Socialism involves using the force of government (e.g., the IRS) to take money from one group of people and give it to another. It also inevitably involves ever-increasing expenditures — and taxes — needed to keep it going.

At first, socialism appears to be a big success. But that’s simply because there is enough wealth to confiscate and give to people. Consider Cuba, for example, which has long had a “free” health care program for everyone. When the socialists took power in 1959, there were lots of wealthy people. Today, the entire country is mired in deep poverty. Over time, that’s inevitably what happens with socialism. Weighed down with ever-increasing taxes, the producers of wealth begin slowing down and many of them simply stop producing wealth by retiring. Of course, that leaves the government less money to confiscate and redistribute.

So, given all the Americans who are now on the socialist dole in countless ways, do the lovers of liberty have any hope in prevailing over the lovers of government? I think we do. While the lovers of government are extolling the great “success” of such welfare state programs as Social Security and Medicare, millions of young Americans and middle-aged Americans are going to soon start feeling the financial burden even more than they already are, especially as more Baby Boomers begin retiring and go on the dole.

The fact is no generation can legitimately bind another generation into accepting its system of government. Every generation has the right to implement its own system. Americans who are now dead and older Americans living today chose the paternalistic welfare state.

But young people and middle-aged people have the right to repeal the welfare state, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and restore a free market system to our land. It would be the best thing they could ever do, not only for themselves and their children but also for the elderly, who still have time to regain their love of liberty and personal independence before they pass on from this life.

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.