BETWEEN THE LINES: Can America be saved?

Life changes in small, virtually unrecognizable increments, but then, over the course of time, we discover society is nothing like the past, and we wonder what happened.

Americans are charitable. We give more per capita than people in any other country. Therefore, it has seemed reasonable to allow government to come to the aid of the poor, the unemployed, the retired and the uninsured. That is, until the bill is due in the form of additional taxes for our public generosity.

The seeds of America’s decline could have been planted during 18th century’s Enlightenment and Romantic periods, which rejected traditional social, religious and political ideas. The Romantic had a grudge against reality because it was not like the dream world he envisioned, one that allowed him to vent his hatred of work, economy and reason.

It was this era that paved the way for the acceptance of the writings of Karl Marx and his attack on capitalism. Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises explains this in great detail in his classic book, "Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis," first published in 1922.

Born in 1871, the founder of the neo-Austrian school of economics experienced first-hand the consequences of Marx’s ideas as demonstrated by Otto von Bismarck’s unified Germany. Germany became the first country to adopt (mandate) old-age compulsory social insurance programs in 1889, the pretense of which was to create a better state of affairs economically and socially.

The noted Austrian economist was a man ahead of his time when he predicted 90 years ago the consequences of government intervention. What was formerly a charity in which the poor had no claim, was now a duty of the community — the government.

As the author noted: “No ordered community has callously allowed the poor and incapacitated to starve.”

Regarding social insurance, von Mises believed socialism would weaken or completely destroy the will to be well and the ability to work. He noted that, should the institution be extended and developed, the disease would spread.

Socialism is a utopian scheme that denies human nature. If there is money in the trough, people will flock to get more than their share.

Good intentions often have disastrous results. For example, unemployment insurance was meant to tide someone over until another job was found. Initially, the benefit was limited to a few months. Today, it has been extended to up to three years. No one can deny this creates a disincentive to find work. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics no longer considers someone unemployed if they are no longer looking for work.

It has taken more than a century for America to decline. It is time for us to abandon our addiction to government programs designed to fix all of life’s inequities and return to individuals being responsible for their actions.

Remember the wise words from the book of Ecclesiastes: “If a man is lazy, the rafters sag, if his hands are idle, the house leaks.”

Laughlin is a Christian Libertarian. He is an economist, teacher, father, husband and most recently a grandfather. He has written a weekly column for The Tribune for 13 years. He and his wife Gina reside in Meadowlakes. To contact him, email ablaughlin@nctv.com. He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company.

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