Politics & Policy

Big Government Means Small People

Ten ways progressive policies harm society’s moral character

While liberals are certain about the moral superiority of liberal policies, the truth is that those policies actually diminish a society’s moral character. Many individual liberals are fine people, but the policies they advocate tend to make a people worse. Here are ten reasons:

1. The bigger the government, the less the citizens do for one another. If the state will take care of me and my neighbors, why should I? This is why Western Europeans, people who have lived in welfare states far longer than Americans have, give less to charity and volunteer less time to others than do Americans of the same socioeconomic status.

#ad#The greatest description of American civilization was written in the 19th century by the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. One of the differences distinguishing Americans from Europeans that he most marveled at was how much Americans — through myriad associations — took care of one another. Until Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt began the seemingly inexorable movement of America toward the European welfare state — vastly expanded later by other Democratic presidents — Americans took responsibility for one another and for themselves far more than they do today. Churches, Rotary Clubs, free-loan societies, and other voluntary associations were ubiquitous. As the state grew, however, all these associations declined. In Western Europe, they have virtually all disappeared.

2. The welfare state, though often well intended, is nevertheless a Ponzi scheme. Conservatives have known this for generations. But now any honest person must acknowledge it. The welfare state is predicated on collecting money from today’s workers in order to pay for those who paid in before them. Unfortunately, today’s workers don’t have enough money to sustain the scheme, because there are too few of them to do so. As a result, virtually every welfare state in Europe, along with many American states, like California, is going broke.

3. Citizens of liberal welfare states become increasingly narcissistic. The great preoccupations of vast numbers of Brits, Frenchmen, Germans, and other Western Europeans are how much vacation time they will have and how early they can retire and be supported by the state.

4. The liberal welfare state makes people disdain work. Americans work considerably harder than Western Europeans, and, contrary to liberal thought since Marx, work builds character.

5. Nothing more guarantees the erosion of character than getting something for nothing. In the liberal welfare state, one develops an entitlement mentality — another expression of narcissism. And the rhetoric of liberalism — labeling each new entitlement a “right” — reinforces this sense of entitlement.

6. The bigger the government, the more the corruption. As the famous truism goes, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Of course, big businesses are also often corrupt. But they are eventually caught or go out of business. The government cannot go out of business. And, unlike corrupt governments, corrupt businesses cannot print money and thereby devalue a nation’s currency, and they cannot arrest you.

7. The welfare state corrupts family life. Even many Democrats have acknowledged the destructive consequences of the welfare state on the underclass. It has rendered vast numbers of males unnecessary to females, who have looked to the state to support them and their children (and the more children, the more state support) rather than to husbands. In effect, these women took the state as their husband.

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8. The welfare state inhibits the maturation of its young citizens into responsible adults. As regards men specifically, I was raised, as were all generations of American men before me, to aspire to work hard in order to marry and to support a wife and children. No more. One of the reasons many single women lament the prevalence of boy-men — men who have not grown up — is that the liberal state has told men they don’t have to support anybody. They are free to remain boys for as long as they want.

And here is an example regarding both sexes. The loudest and most sustained applause I ever heard was that of college students responding to a speech by Pres. Barack Obama informing them that they would now be covered by their parents’ health-insurance policies until age 26.

#ad#9. As a result of the Left’s sympathetic views of pacifism, and because almost no welfare state can afford a strong military, European countries rely on America to fight the world’s evils and even to defend them.

10. The leftist weltanschauung sees society’s and the world’s great battle as between rich and poor rather than between good and evil. Equality therefore trumps morality. This is what produces the morally confused liberal elites that can venerate a Cuban tyranny with its egalitarian society over a free and decent America that has greater inequality.

None of this matters to progressives. Against all this destructiveness, they will respond not with arguments to refute these consequences of the liberal welfare state, but by citing the terms “social justice” and “compassion,” and by labeling their opponents “selfish” and worse.

If you want to feel good, liberalism is awesome. If you want to do good, it is largely awful.

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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