Combatting statism is not, as many assume, a project in propaganda; it is, instead, a probing operation. The problem is not one of merely getting others to grasp the little we already know; it is far more a matter of discovering that which we ourselves do not yet understand.
A major area of exploration, of course, is to find new and better ways to explain and dramatize the miracles of productivity and progress which attend free-market, private-property, limited-government practices; most of us are but dimly aware of the potentialities of freedom. But while we are probing into the positive, we must also explore and understand the negative: why so many persons find socialism attractive. Why? Let’s explore this one.
Why do people endorse the welfare state? Certainly, it will not do to ascribe bad motives to all of them — such as malevolence, greed, and a thirst for power. These unwholesome drives doubtless do account for many turn-man-over-to-government positions but they utterly fail to explain why countless clergymen, educators, business leaders, and others of good intent — even big taxpayers — have joined the state-welfarist landslide. Please examine the following as a possible answer.
Based on some thirty years of personal probing, I am now convinced that most advocates of state welfarism are motivated by a kindly sentiment. These advocates observe or read or hear about people living in conditions that are below par; slums, poor diet, inadequate medical and hospital opportunities, too high prices for their power and light and other things they buy, too low prices for their labor, and so on and on. These sensitive people see instances of misery and misfortune; their heart goes out to the lame, the halt, the blind, the afflicted. No question about it, their desire to remedy the ills of mankind is motivated by kindness. Admirable, up to this point!
Now, what do most of these kindly people advocate as a means to satisfy their compassionate ends? They advocate government aid. Such kindness is myopic or shortsighted, for these folk see no more than meets the eye; that is, they have no awareness beyond the benefits they would bestow upon certain individuals or groups. What they fail to see is the burden their government aid inflicts on millions of individuals outside their perspective. They are conscious only of trying to help those they have in view; they are blind to — unconscious of — the anonymous millions their system plunders, destroys. Their remedy consists of a presumed kindness which gratifies them and a major injustice of which they are unaware. Moral, social, political myopia, nothing less!
How circumspect is the individual in his own little orbit! Within his circle of acquaintance and personal experience he behaves like a human being. Unless demented, he would no more think of pilfering from these few than he would stand by and watch one of them starve to death. Indeed, not!
But, if he be shortsighted, observe his behavior toward those outside his orbit, these being well over 99 percent of the population. To him these millions are only a mass blur, a mere something he lumps off as “the people.” With respect to this human lump he becomes inhuman. To “it” he accords no attributes of individuality; “it” he considers fit for exploitation: send the police force into “it” and obtain funds for not growing crops or to finance the local urban renewal or to subsidize a thousand and one little objects of his own peculiar “kindness.” Motivated by kindness and in the name of kindness, these victims of myopia commit an enormous unkindness!
What the victim of myopic kindness overlooks is that most of the millions outside his orbit — those in the great mass blur — have little orbits of their own, each suffering the same myopia, each having him relegated to an “it” to be exploited. Does this not explain how a kindly sentiment, when coupled with shortsightedness, produces so much of man’s inhumanity to man?
Those, on the other hand, who are blessed with a modicum of vision or far-sightedness are not confronted with any mass blur. They clearly see that every individual outside their own orbit has the same right to and yearning for life as they themselves do. They know that any real kindness to one cannot have its origin in an unkindness to another; that any practice which contradicts universal principles must, perforce, be unprincipled.
Why such an ado about myopic kindness? Simply because this shortsightedness, when associated with kindly sentiments, partially explains why good people are lending themselves to a worldwide devolution; and, also, because this shortsightedness can, in many instances, be easily overcome. All of us suffer myopia in varying degrees. All of us have experienced staring at a thing and seeing nothing or reading a line and perceiving nothing. Then someone has pointed out the beauty or the truth and, behold, we see or perceive! Truth and beauty are all about us and, for those who seek, little more is required than to have someone — a teacher — pull the veil away.
This, we believe, is the spirit of freedom, the spirit in which free men are bound to proceed. We further believe that the more who acquire this spirit of everlasting inquiry, the more quickly will freedom prevail among men.