Here in the greatest democracy, odd though it may seem, we still debate the obligations of our enlightened society to our less fortunate members (oh, yes — less fortunate, because, after all, those who prosper must admit that in some way, small or large, their success is the product of dumb luck.)
The most objectionable concept anyone can raise on this topic is the notion that society should have any but the barest expectation that people should do more to help themselves. This is a taboo of such immense dimension that even a hint of violation brings snorts of opprobrium from the champions of the light. The topic is troublesome, freighted with preconceptions, misperceptions, biases, rancor, agendas and all the other plagues of public discourse, and it is a rare and gifted analyst who can get more than two sentences into the subject without several thousand voices immediately shrieking objections.
But sometimes someone gets it so right that we just have to sit back and gasp with admiration. Here, in just two short paragraphs, Bill Quick at the Daily Pundit summarizes the social covenant between a welfare state and its tenants:
We will pay for your unwed children, so much per head. We will provide you a minimum income and housing good enough to keep the rain off your head. We will give you food stamps in sufficient amounts to buy all the cheap, unhealthy food you can eat. And when you get sick, we will give you whatever marginal medical care we can afford.
Further, we will give your children something that looks like an education, but actually is a cultural indoctrination of no use in actually helping you to escape your poverty. And we will cap it off by making sure that the single most important economic endeavor in your neighborhoods is the trade in drugs we have made illegal.
It’s that second paragraph that really sets the hook, isn’t it? What would happen if “less fortunate” people were suddenly aware of the bill of goods they’ve been sold by the boodlers they elect? That the handouts they get from a paternal state do not come cheaply? That they are not condemned to a life of institutionalized day care? That they can make their own decisions, chart their own courses and live what Teddy Roosevelt called “the strenuous life?”
Asking too much? Maybe. But, as Quick also points out:
…there were slave owners in America who sincerely believed that black people could not survive without the mechanism of slavery to make sure they were fed, clothed, and sheltered.
Today, these slave owners come not in the white linens of the plantation, but in pinstriped suits with American flag lapel pins; and they ask not for labor, but for votes, but all the time with the same message: “Trust us. We know what’s best for you.”