Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Government and the "safety net"

From the inimitable Mark Steyn:
There is a phrase you hear a lot in Canada, Britain, an Europe to describe the collection of positive "rights" (to "free" health care, unemployment benefits, subsidized public transit) to which the citizens of Western democracies have become addicted: the "social safety net." It has always struck me as an odd term: Obviously, it derives from the circus. But life isn't really a high-wire act, is it? Or at least it didn't use to be. If you put the average chap-or even Barack Obama or Barney Frank-in spangled leotard and tights and on a unicycle and shove him out across the wire, he's likely to fall off. But put the average chap in spangled leotard and tights out into the world and tell him to get a job, find accomodation, raise a family, take responsibility, and he can do it. Or he used to be able to, until the government decided he needed a "safety net."

What do you think? True or not? Should government be providing such a "safety net?" If so, how big should the net be?


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

It is not the government's job to be doing all that. People need to be more responsible for their actions. However, even more important than just a belief that this is the way it should be, is the fact that our Constitution does not allow our government to spend money on these issues. It is only by twisting the meaning of the Constitution completely out of context (the way false teachers approach Scripture) that these politicians come up with their bizarre ideas of being the government nanny.

The Bullhorn said...


Good thoughts. As James Madison (the Father of the Constitution) said, "Congress has not unlimited power to provide for the general welfare..." But since these things aren't going to be declared unconstitutional any time soon, isn't the argument about the scope and reach of government still worth having? That is, we can't simply ban them all (at least as a practical rather than theoretical matter), and in the Age of Obama may find it difficult to cut any. So where can we draw helpful lines?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I'd say that the government can be there to help the truly needy, but that is such a small percentage we wouldn't even notice the tax drain! The government has no business in running corporations, for example, and has no business bailing people out when they refuse to be responsible for their behavior.

Most of all, if the gov't is going to be a nanny, then it should only help with needs, not wants. The gov't has no business buying everyone a converter for their TV, nor should it be buying every school kid a computer, nor should it be giving everyone access to the Internet, etc. If we allow the gov't to be a nanny, then let's insure it is only for NEEDS!

A large part of the problem is the federal government being involved in issues that should be left to the states; there should be no federal education department for example.