Monday, November 14, 2005

The Dangers of Relying on the State

Watching the victims of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans stranded by their government yet demanding help from another layer of government, and now seeing Islamic kids in Paris rioting against the unfulfilled promises of liberal socialism, I am again reminded why citizens must rely on themselves first, their families second, their friends and community (churches, Rotary, etc.) third, and their government least of all.

The danger of the welfare state is most nakedly exposed when its promises inevitably cannot be kept, when expectations are not met. Then the only one to blame is not yourself, but the government, someone else, "them." Your only recourse is panic, riot. It is dangerous for citizens to rely on promises of politicians. It is dangerous for the state to create false expectations with promises that cannot be kept.

Where were the citizens of New Orleans when decisions about their levies and city planning were made? They were on Bourbon Street, figuratively or literally. Where were their families with places to stay or the know-how to get things done? Casual sex is more fun than commitment and marriage. Where were their friends with the means to get them out of town? They hadn't bothered to meet a broad array of friends. Where were their church busses to evacuate the infirm and those without transportation? They didn't care to join a church. What were the citizens of New Orleans to do when community and government leaders abdicated at every level? They were to panic. Where was the basic comprehension of "citizenship" that should have deputized new leaders to control looting and equitably distribute perishables, or to police the toilets at the shelters? That was not something they were taught, nor cared to learn. That was something "other" people do.

Government simply cannot hope to plan a modern economy, nor provide jobs for all who desire one. Government can only hope to tame the tiger, not control it. Government must ensure equality of opportunity, then get out of the way. It's not up to the French government to give its citizens jobs. That is up to French business. But when you can't fire an employee, you simply won't hire her in the first place. When you would be forced to overpay for work locally, you source that work elsewhere. Eurosocialism's pop-economics oversimplifies promises and burdens its subjects with rules that make market flexibility impossible. That brand of liberalism fails to appreciate feedback loops, the laws of unintended consequences, human nature.

There is a place for government in all this, but that place is last. No man is an island, but the government is not the closest shore.

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