Government “Largesse”

A remark attributed to Margaret Thatcher from her beginnings in British politics in the late ’40s or early ’50s comes to mind.  She said, in essence,

[I]f you do not provide [for a rainy day–or for any other purpose] you cannot be certain that anyone else will.

This truism would seem self-evident, but I’m going to expound on it a little, anyway.  In the end, “you” is not all of us, but each of us.  Government is what is all of us, acting in concert through the mechanism of representatives we elect for the purpose.

If we, individually, do not provide for our own future, but depend on government—all of us—to do so, then none of us will be capable of providing.  If none of us is providing for ourselves, then we will not have the resources to help any other who has not provided, or cannot provide.  Rely on government?  Government can’t provide for any of us without taking from at least some of us.  That taking is not different in its effect on us from our own conscious decision not to provide for ourselves: what must be taken is exactly that which we would have put by for ourselves.

There’s more to this, though, than just the pecuniary aspect, and that is the morality of relying on “anyone else” to provide.  Leaving the matter to government (for instance), rather than to “anyone else” means ultimately that we must have the government provide for us—we will have become dependent on government, rather than reliant on ourselves.   Worse, a habit of dependency will develop, and the dependents will lose their ability to provide for themselves.

This does not change when that dependency is on “anyone else” instead of on government; it remains dependency.  Of course this is different from an occasional hand up.  From the perspective of Thatcher’s “you,” each of us (but not all of us) is that “anyone else,” and it certainly is our individual duty to offer a hand up (not a handout) to “you” in an hour of need.  Just as it is the duty of “you” not to make asking for, or accepting, such hands up so habitual that they become handouts, and “you” become dependent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *