The recent election is serving as a wake-up call to many on the conservative side of the aisle, and I have little doubt the remedies will be all across the map — including many who are willing to take our opposition’s recommendation that we echo their big government paternalism.
Sorry. It ain’t gonna happen. But as with many crises, the soul searching will be intense. And as often is the case, the answer may be found with some reflection of where we were not that long ago.
We are conservatives not because we just want more money and things, despite how the other side loves to portray us. Frankly, it’s far down the list for most of us. And yet there certainly is a distinct moral underpinning to our beliefs that tell us we are free human beings with the ability to make choices. We fold this sacred right into the package we call “freedom,” or “liberty.” Being human, we know that we won’t always make the correct choices or even the most moral, but that all is part of the human challenge and what I think we will have to answer for on Judgment Day.
Giving away that right to the government changes everything. It institutionalizes it, thus taking it out of our hands. So even if we voted in such a way hoping that the government will use the money properly to redistribute the resources to help the disadvantaged, once it has left our control, they can do what they want. History has proven over and over that it rarely rises to the challenge and often becomes the antithesis of what we envisioned.
In these pages many months ago, I wrote about my many trips to Ukraine conducting seminars on democracy and how our free enterprise system works. One of the reasons I always enjoyed going back was because of the goodwill of the Ukrainian people. They are wonderful. But, they have had several generations of massive government telling them the state is everything and they are there to serve it. No charities were allowed under the Soviet system because that would demonstrate that socialism couldn’t supply all the people’s needs. Worker’s Paradise, remember? The result of this, which I discerned many times, was an attitude of almost complete detachment from any responsibility for their fellow citizens or anyone else. If it’s the government’s responsibility, it certainly isn’t mine! And those awful words became a mantra: “It’s not my problem.”
The upshot is that by handing over our money and power to the government, it ultimately becomes counterproductive from most people’s initial wishes. In addition, they also are harming these same fellow citizens by making them dependent rather than self-sufficient. Is there anything more evil than this? It doesn’t mean cutting off resources and help to those who truly need it. That’s what a compassionate society does. But once we start handing out goodies to those who aren’t really in need, we have robbed the truly needy and helped destroy the initiative of those who are demanding those resources. Everyone loses.
We also have taken away our own sense of empathy and responsibility to those in need by abdicating it to the government institutions. This robs us our need to be virtuous in our own right. Americans always have been the most generous people in the history of the world. We have recent data showing that those who would choose a smaller government if given the choice are much more generous privately than those who vote for a larger expanding one. No surprise there.
Gary Hofmeister is the owner and operator of Hofmeister Personal Jewelers in downtown Steamboat, a company he founded in 1973. He is a director of The Steamboat Institute and a former Republican nominee for Congress in the 10th District of Indiana.