Miss Dillenberg Is a recent graduate (12th grads) of the Fairfax Christian School In Virginia.
The United States 18 moving with ever-increasing speed down the path at the end of which each individual is just one small part of an all-important government. One of the greatest shifts in philosophy in this century has been away from the idea that what a man earned was his own, to spend or save at his own discretion. Now, the individual no longer works for himself, but for the horde of tax collectors and bureaucrats "running" the country. The reason is simple—people no longer pay for their own housing, education, medical care; they "charge it to Uncle Sam."
How delightful—if the government were an inexhaustible fountain of wealth. But this is not the case. What the government spends, it must first take out of the pockets of its beneficiaries, by taxing and/or inflating the money supply. As Frederic Bastiat put it, the public is under the spell of "the great fiction, by means of which everyone hopes to live at the expense of everyone else." There was a time when it was considered a social disgrace to depend on state funds for a livelihood. Today, almost everyone is collecting social security of one form or another. When these programs were instituted the people were led to believe that the "free" services would be paid for out of taxes on the rich. This is called graduated taxation and is based upon the idea that it’s not right for one person to earn more than another, no matter what kind and amount of work each does. However, these "soak-the-rich" schemes have led to the liquidation of the wealthy class, and the cost of "free" services has been spread over all the beneficiaries.
It is strange that these ideas should catch on in the very countries that are distinguished from the rest of the world by their mass prosperity. The difference between the developed and undeveloped nations is not the services enjoyed by the wealthy, but in the general standard of living of the mass of people in the respective areas. In one, a great variety of goods and services is available to people of all economic strata; in the other, the lives of the masses are marked by a consistent level of deprivation and despairing poverty.
The great message of the Industrial Revolution is that political freedom encourages saving, investment, production and trade as a way to better living. The restraints and entanglements of politics should be avoided in any concerted attack on poverty. Government welfare leads inevitably to a maze of restrictions and regulations to enforce each new law. Every "gift" from government involves controls that stifle production and trade. But the welfare habit is addictive; the more people receive, the more they want.
The main reason for the plausibility of redistributionist ideas is a misconception of the nature of ownership and production and what earning an income means in the framework of a free market. A redistributionist seems to think that goods are "socially produced" and then placed in the common storehouse, to be arbitrarily distributed as incomes. But there is a pattern to the earning of incomes in the free market: the size of the income depends upon the extent to which the individual, in conjunction with other individuals, succeeds in satisfying the wants of his fellow men. Capitalists must use their capital to produce for consumers. Legal ownership of capital goods does not automatically guarantee an income from them. Since, in this context, the fulfillment of consumer wishes is the rationale of the production of consumer goods, it is the mass of consumers who must be regarded as the real economic director of capital.
So, even though legal titles to the thousands of factories in any given country may lie in the hands of a minority, this accumulation of capital is not used for their exclusive benefit but to produce a great variety of goods and services for the majority of people.
The goods and services we consume have been produced for us by our fellow men, in exchange for what we have produced for them. If we wish to consume more, without producing more, someone else must produce more, without consuming more. There is a third method—by seizing what others have produced and forcing them to do without. This is theft, pure and simple, and it’s what is really involved in the redistribution of incomes via state compulsion—progressive taxation to "soak the rich" and "welfare" measures to raise the income of the very poorest. This idea of stealing from one party to give to another involves the massive presumption that any third party (government) can know so much as to be able to judge from whom to take, to whom to give, and how much. The government would be virtually taking God’s place, and arbitrarily deciding right and wrong.
And there is the inconsistency that the very people who help create those "high" incomes by buying what the "rich" people have produced then propose to "correct" the "unequal" distribution of the market by the political process.
A fairly recent proposal for robbing the industrious and thrifty to subsidize the thriftless and lazy is the so-called NIT, the negative income tax. This insures every family a minimum income, whether it is earned or not. In fact, one in this income bracket may just as well quit working and collect his "wages" anyway. If this were passed through the legislatures incentive to fill the least-skilled and lowest-paying jobs would completely disappear. Some 30 million people would become permanent state pensioners, to be maintained at the cost of the solvent taxpayers.
At each end of the economic ladder an increasing number of people would ask, "Why work?" The beneficiaries of this gigantic welfare system would see very little reason to take an unskilled job, with minimum wages and no prestige, when they could sit at home gossiping with their friends over a six-pack and collect welfare checks.
At the same time, the more ambitious and affluent would see little incentive to work harder or achieve if what they earned would be immediately siphoned off for subsidizing the lazy.
One aspect of freedom is the right to make choices—part of which right is the responsibility and privilege of accepting the results, good or bad. "Big Brother" government would lift this burden from our shoulders if it could. It wants to protect us from ourselves. We should all be just another cog in the machine. Is this what we want?
Every offer of government aid that we accept encourages the government to tax us still more, and to impose still more controls. For every state allowance, we give up a piece of our dearly-bought freedom. We give up the power to choose for ourselves how to spend our money. The government decides what we need or should have.
And what of the old-fashioned idea of Christian charity? Once, it was a function of the church to minister to the needs of the genuinely poor and sick. One of the worst by-products of state welfarism has been the paralysis of our impulse toward charity. For not only has the state usurped this function of the church, and seized our means to be charitable, it has stolen our will to be charitable, too.