All Commentary
Thursday, August 1, 1991

Perspective: Legacy

What kind of world will we leave to our children?

Will they be burdened with our debts? With interest on the national debt becoming the major part of Federal spending, with unfunded Social Security obligations soaring into the trillions of dollars, with “off-budget” Federally insured loans piling on trillions of dollars in more debt, one wonders how they ever will pay it off.

Will their environment be spoiled by our pollution? Will their air be fit to breathe and their water fit to drink? Will their land be poisoned by toxic wastes?

And what about the problems children face right now? How will crime and drugs in our public schools affect them in future years?

These are, indeed, serious concerns. Yet our greatest failure—and our greatest hope—may be in the values we teach our children.

Are we teaching them thrift and honesty when we incur debts we have no hope of repaying? Are we wise to excuse criminal behavior as merely a “sickness”? Are we helping our children to control their own behavior when we say that a drug addict “can’t help it”? Are we showing them how to become responsible adults when time and again we turn to the government to “solve” personal, family, and community problems, with little concern for the rights or property of others?

Our personal and family values may seem inconsequential compared with the problems the world will face. Yet they hold the solution.

—Brian Summers

Statecraft and Soulcraft

The true problem with humanity is that far too many of us suffer from inadequate moral enlightenment. Many people simply don’t sufficiently cultivate the gardens of their souls—not necessarily because they are evil; they may simply be engrossed in other things, or not realize the importance of soulcraft. Consequently, religion and morality are often not the governors of conduct that they should be. Indeed freedom is always at risk precisely because the moral worthiness of freedom and free enterprise are inadequately grasped by too many.

Characteristically standing this truth on its head, statists often maintain that people are too selfish, depraved, and morally unenlightened to be trusted with freedom. But the state itself is operated by those selfsame flawed and unenlightened people. When we start with benighted people and add an activist state, all we get is an actively intervening state staffed with benighted people—hardly an improvement. And because morally ignorant and backsliding people now have the state’s power at their disposal, and deploy it to gain their ends, it stands to reason that we will be worse off; government action will be inadequate in its conception, clumsy or tyrannical in its execution, and harmful in its effects. If anarchy is not safe for imperfect, corruptible, unenlightened people, neither is any form of government beyond the minimal state envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

And if people were not flawed and unenlightened? Then, proponents of statism might argue, there would be no need for a welfare state. But neither, friends of freedom would rebut, would they want one. The desire to coerce, or enlist the government to coerce, your neighbors, competitors, or other fellow citizens on your behalf is itself morally flawed, indeed one of the best proofs of insufficient moral awareness.

—John Attarian

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Promoting Inefficiency

Increased government intervention in the economy can change the efficiency of private business—and universities and hospitals, and other nonprofit institutions as well—by changing the kinds of people who survive the Darwinian struggle to reach the top. The executive who knows how to get the most bang for the buck may not be the one who ends up in charge, if what is really needed is someone who can keep Congress from taxing those bucks away or from draining them off by imposing new regulatory restrictions or ancillary obligations for environmental or other purposes.

In short, not only does government itself often operate inefficiently;, it can also make businesses less efficient by creating an environment that dis-advantages those businessmen whose primary—or sole—talents are in promoting efficiency.

—Thomas Sowell, writing in the

May 27, 1991, issue of Forbes

Church and State

When the church becomes so closely identified with the state, how will the church be viewed when the state in turn becomes oppressive? Ask the people in Romania or the Soviet Union. A close proximity of church to state compromises the church’s ability to critique the state . . . .

The nature of any state is coercive. For the church to avoid repeating past mistakes she will have to resist the age-old temptation of becoming closely identified with the means of coercion.

—Robert A. Sirico, CSP,

writing in the January/February 1991

issue of Religion and Liberty

Choices and Consequences

Every choice we make has consequences for us. We must bear the burdens of our choices. If our choices are irresponsible we suffer the consequences and learn from them. We change our choices by reforming. We reform ourselves each day in small ways that in most people eliminates the need for drastic change. Governmental institutions, on the other hand, freeze decisions and make incremental reforms almost impossible. This creates the demand for drastic results. Removing more decisions from governmental institutions will make it possible to achieve necessary reforms in an easy rather than difficult manner. The natural relationship between freedom and morality, then, can be restored to its appropriate harmony.

—Leonard P. Liggio, writing in the

October 1990 issue of Chronicles

Human Nature

It’s in people’s nature that if something is theirs, it’s theirs, and a person works with a totally different mindset if he has property.

—Nataliya Yeromeeva, a private shopkeeper

in Leningrad, quoted in the April 23, 1991,

Wall Street Journal