One of the reasons, a long time ago, that I left active participation in the Libertarian movement is that nobody could ever provide me with a map of “how to get there from here.” By and large the answers I got were either: “We’re going to have to educate the younger generation because this one’s too addicted to the current set of government hand-outs to change,” or, “Eventually, the existing set-up will collapse of its own weight, and we’ll be there to pick up the pieces.”
Neither approach appeals to me, because both of them appear to punt on the idea that we can begin making incremental changes toward greater individual liberty and smaller government today. Ourselves. With our neighbors. And organize to go forward.
If you want to break other people of the idea of taking government hand-outs (in exchange for paying high taxes and turning over control of your own life), then the first thing you have to do is stop or materially reduce the government hand-outs you accept. Doing so is often painful, especially when you see other people willing to nourish themselves endlessly at the governmental teat, but it is possible.
We pay my daughter’s medical bills, and help with her son’s daycare. Boiling down a long story to short, my eldest daughter can no longer be carried on our health insurance, and the job she works pays no benefits. During her pregnancy we discovered that she was eligible for all kinds of things, like free milk, cheese, and cereal from WIC, or—later—daycare assistance. Twice she even went and got the milk at Acme, before we realized what a trap this all is.
She’s our daughter; her son is our grandchild. We’re responsible as family, and we can damn well afford to buy the food to feed them. More to the point, when we looked at the so-called “daycare assistance” the State provides, we discovered that really outstanding daycare, the type we wanted him to have, is not covered by the State plan. We even discovered that having top-quality daycare actually reduced the amount of child support she could receive from the man we fondly refer to as the “sperm donor,” because according to the formula that Family Court uses, we spend too much on our grandson’s daycare.
So we told the government to take a hike, and made the economic choices necessary to take care of our own family. We write a hefty check every month, and sometimes it really hurts. That’s the price you pay for freedom of choice.
Unfortunately, many of the little government giveaways are hidden from view, which is exactly how the statist Demopublicans like them. State and cities give out community development grants, the legislature provides extra money for the local firehouse, or there’s economic development money available for certain tourist areas. We are conditioned not to think of these items as hand-outs; they have somehow become—what’s that word?—entitlements.
Drive a Prius and the government will give you a tax credit. Adopt a child and the government will give you a tax credit. Teachers can claim a $400 credit on their taxes for materials bought for their students. Measure off a home office and claim a tax break.
I don’t like the idea at all that the government has decided to use my money (as a tax payer) to indulge in social engineering (by handing out credits and breaks for engaging in approved behaviors), so I try not to play that game. Does it cost you money to disengage from this sort of entitlement heroin? Yes, it sure does.
But the idea that personal freedom isn’t free doesn’t just apply to the sacrifices of our soldiers.
If you want to begin to sell other people on the idea of smaller government and more personal responsibility, then you’ve got to do more than talk the talk.