All Commentary
Friday, January 1, 1960

Love That Neighbor

Mr. Sparks is a businessman from Canton, Ohio.

Our suburban community near a prosperous American city consists primarily of families like ours with incomes substantially above the national average. Our three children enjoy the gay summer vacation away from school. One son spends a week at camp each summer, his older brother takes golf lessons and plays baseball, and our daughter takes swimming lessons—activities which cost money, as every parent should know.

Now, what would you think of me, their father, if I sent them from door to door among our neighbors seeking contributions sufficient to cover the expense of their summer entertainment? I think I know your answer—but let’s further examine the question.

Customs and laws have gradu­ally diluted what used to be recognized as a parent’s responsibil­ity for his offspring. There also was a time when our nation was relatively free of socialistic ideas, but not today, as new laws and proposals mark continuing social­istic inroads on our freedom. These two developments, I believe, are closely related.

Most examinations of the col­lectivist philosophy are concerned with political or governmental in­tervention in private activities, the government taking control and making decisions for men who formerly were self-responsible. Collectivism spawns the irrespon­sible “government-owes-me-a-liv­ing” idea. And I agree that the greatest and most immediate threat arises in this area of po­litical and governmental interven­tion. But I submit that the same treacherous ideas are being sown among our youth through private activities normally considered breeding grounds for nothing but good American ideals. These ideas are fostered by well-meaning par­ents who thoughtlessly accept “something-for-nothing” as a sub­stitute for their own parental re­sponsibilities, the result being a new generation without a sense of individual responsibility for their own welfare—easy prey for the collectivist philosophy.

I’m thinking of the way boys’ baseball is handled in our com­munity. An association has been organized with teams of the fa­miliar classifications—Little League, Mity Mite, Babe Ruth, Hot Stove, and so forth. Financing such an enterprise is a problem, particularly if there is no reliance on parental responsibility. It is most discouraging to witness a meeting of 50 or 60 fathers trying to figure out how to persuade others than themselves to finance these baseball teams made up of their own sons. Each father pay what it costs for his own son to play! What a shocking idea!

If my son needs clothing, it is my responsibility to provide it. When my son needs food, it is my responsibility to provide such food for him. Only in those unusual and dire circumstances when I am un­able to provide necessities should charity enter the picture. If my son wishes to bowl, I pay for his bowling, or he earns the money himself for this pastime. If he wishes to attend a church camp or a YMCA camp for one or two weeks in the summer, I am re­quired to pay the fee for such at­tendance. Why should summer baseball recreation be viewed in any different light? Why should my neighbor—or, as it usually works out, 15 or 20 of my neigh­bors who have no children on the team—be pressured either direct­ly or indirectly to provide this summer baseball recreation for my son by sending him from door to door attired in a baseball uni­form? We call this system the “Booster Club Membership” ticket sale. The buyer of the ticket has received nothing in exchange ex­cept whatever civic joy he may de­rive from knowing he has just been pressured into giving a dona­tion to the son of his financially capable neighbor.

It is here that we are projecting the evil of the socialistic philoso­phy into an area which, while tech­nically on a voluntary basis, is taking on many of the despicable characteristics of socialism. If I ask my neighbor to provide for my son’s summer pastime, doesn’t he have a corresponding right to ask me to help pay for his vaca­tion trip? Isn’t he justified in ask­ing me to contribute to the ex­pense of summer camp or singing lessons for his daughter?

What does this system do to the boys themselves? These boys, par­ticularly in the older age groups, feel they are somehow owed a right to play baseball on a team without expense to themselves or to their families. This often pro­duces an attitude that is insincere and tends to cause wasteful use of the materials and uniforms sup­plied. Wouldn’t a boy be more ap­preciative knowing that his par­ents, rather than some faceless community association, footed the bill for him? His attitude might be better still if he had to work and earn his own money to pay for his participation on the baseball team. As it is now, how can we ex­pect anything but youth ripened for socialism?

I realize there are certain com­munity projects of great merit supplying recreational activities and other assistance to children who would not otherwise be able to participate in such activities due to financial difficulties of their parents. There even may be a scat­tered few in my particular area. In these instances, a modest fund could be established to which many of us would happily sub­scribe. A few may warrant char­itable consideration.

It seems important that civic-minded people in voluntary com­munity activities take a good look at their policies lest the disastrous idea that “somebody else owes me something” become the widely ac­cepted custom. This could become a cancerous disease, the next step being passage of a law providing for a tax or levy on the whole com­munity to pay for my son’s base­ball playing. If you think not, you should have been at the meeting. Someone suggested it.



Ideas on Liberty


From an editorial in a Lansing, Michigan, newspaper of 1858.

The demands of some citizens for installation of watering troughs for horses on Lansing‘s streets are a shocking indication that there are no lengths to which people will not go in seeking government services.

This great land of ours was not founded by people who expected a Welfare State to solve all their problems, even to the extent of demanding that facilities for quenching the thirst of horses be pro­vided at the public expense.

The attitude exemplified by those who are making these unreason­able current demands upon this city’s newly-formed government raise the spectre of even more fantastic demands upon government in the years ahead.

Who knows what will happen if our city officials take this step down the road to socialism?

  • John C. Sparks, who died on March 27, 2005, served on the board of trustees of the Foundation for Economic Education for many years. In the mid-1980s, following his retirement from business, Mr. Sparks served a term as FEE’s president.