When John F. Kennedy challenged Americans in his inaugural address, the
idea that the government should somehow provide for the individual citizen
was in its infancy. In his speech that day, Kennedy also said, “... the
same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at
issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the
generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”
Unfortunately, the concept of “state as provider” is now a fully grown
adult. Political candidates in both major parties spend most of their
time telling various members of the electorate how the government is going
to fix whatever problem is confronting them, usually by spending money.
Of course, the government doesn’t actually HAVE any money. It creates no
products or services to generate its own wealth. Government gets its
money by taking it from the citizens who create the products and services
that do generate wealth. It calls that action of taking money, taxation.
There are tasks that only a government can accomplish, such as national
defense and infrastructure, which benefit every citizen, and for which
every citizen is assessed through taxation. But those tasks are limited.
In the “State as provider” role, the government requires much larger
amounts of money. The only way it can get the expanded funds is to take
more from the citizens. So when a political candidate promises to create
or expand a government program to solve the problems of person A, he is
really saying that he is going to take more money from person B to make
his promise become a reality.
The loss to person B is obvious – taxes get raised.
But the effect on person A, while less obvious, is just as detrimental.
Government programs are not like private charities. They come with a
myriad of eligibility requirements that always allow the government to
invade every aspect of person A’s life, so person A trades privacy for
assistance. They come with complicated and far-reaching rules and
regulations that allow the government to dictate how person A must live,
so person A trades control for help. And they come with arcane success
measurements that allow the government to direct person A’s decisions
about the future, so person A trades opportunity for aide.
What the state provides for, the state controls.
And, to add insult to injury, the state does not even provide well.
Independent analyses of government run programs report that over 80 cents
of every dollar spent by the government on programs to help people with
their problems never leave the government – in other words, person A
trades away his life to participate in a program that is only 20%
Reputable private charities more than reverse those numbers – with about
90 cents of every dollar going to the service. But private charities
don’t give the government control.
Government social programming does. All the person A’s out there are now
dependent on the state for some aspect of their lives, so they will oppose
any change in direction that cuts the program they rely upon. And, as the
government continues to expand its reach, the increased taxation burden
continues to move citizens from the person B category to the person A
category, increasing the ranks of those whose lives government can direct.
Kennedy probably did not anticipate what would happen when an electorate
began to ask its government what it could do for them, but his words were
nonetheless prophetic. It’s time we listen to, and act upon, them.
Peg Luksik is a
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Learn more at