Politics & Policy

The Bigger the Government, the Less You Are Needed

The leftist nanny state inevitably pushes the little platoons into obsolescence.

Among the things on which Left and Right, religious and secular, can agree is that one of the few real needs that human beings have is to be needed.

When we are not needed, life feels pointless.

The need to be needed is universal. The sexes may feel needed in different ways, but the depth of the need is the same.

Many women feel particularly alive when needed by their young children; many men feel worthy when needed by their family and/or their work. That is why most women navigate difficult emotional straits when their adult children leave home and assume independent lives; and why most men find it so crushing to lose their jobs — not necessarily because of the loss of income, but because of the loss of meaning that comes from no longer being needed.

Only when we are needed do we believe we have significance. Give a boy a special task — just about any task — and he blossoms. Give a girl a person — in fact, almost any living being — who depends on her, and she blossoms.

Of course, there are also myriad unhealthy ways of feeling needed. If an unwed teenage girl has a baby in order to feel needed, it is usually a bad thing for her, for the child, and for society. If a boy joins a gang to feel significant, it is bad for him and for society.

Though not consciously intended to, over time the political program of the Left destroys people’s ability to be needed, and therefore to be or feel significant.

As I regularly note, the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. One can add: The bigger the government, the less significant the citizen — especially men. One well-known example is the way welfare robbed so many men of significance when women and their children came to depend financially on the state.

And it goes further than that. In order to feel significant, men not only need to have others depend on them, they also need to depend on themselves, on their own work and initiative. But that, too, is destroyed as the state gets bigger. Fewer and fewer people work for themselves (which leads among other things to the disappearance of that quintessentially American ideal, the risk-taking entrepreneur).

It gets worse. As the power to fulfill needs shifts from the individual to the state, the state increasingly determines who is needed and who has significance.

That means, first of all, politicians. Obviously, whoever controls the ever expanding government has the most significance in a society.

Another significant group in the leftist state is the media. They are significant in a non-leftist state such as America, as well — but there is a huge difference. Since American media are largely independent of government, there are a far greater number of significant media people in America than in the much smaller world of consolidated state media in Europe or Latin America. There is nothing like the BBC or French Radio and Television in the United States. Therefore, no one in American media is nearly as powerful as are the heads of the BBC or RTF. So the American state cannot anoint who is significant in media.

Then there is the intellectual class. They, too, are largely determined by the state, which funds nearly all education and intellectual life. One reason intellectuals in America and Europe are so often estranged from American culture is that intellectuals have rarely had the fame or significance here that they have had in Europe. There have been no American intellectuals with the celebrity or influence that Jean-Paul Sartre had in France, for example.

So, too, artists take on greater prominence as the left-wing state grows. And they, too, are funded and celebrated by the state.

Fifty years ago, the men of the local Rotary Club had prestige and societal significance. So did fathers. So did clergy. With the ascendance of the Left and the expansion of their state, much of their power and societal significance has eroded.

Now, as the state expands further into health care, the same will happen to doctors, as power and prestige are transferred from them to the heads of dozens of new government health-regulatory agencies. Over time, neither you nor your doctor will fully decide your treatment.

Indeed, over time, if the Left has its way and the state keeps expanding, you will also not decide what temperature to keep your house at or how to get to work. Nor will you be needed to educate your children (that is already the job of the state, and much of Europe now bans home schooling), or to raise and discipline your children (the state will ensure you are doing it correctly, and spanking is now illegal in 25 countries). Fathers will be needed primarily (and after divorce, only) as providers of child and spousal support.

In short, you will be needed essentially for one thing: to finance the one entity that is truly needed — the state.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. He may be contacted through his website, dennisprager.com.


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