There was a time in this country when the individual was responsible for his own life and his own future. It was a time when family, friends and private philanthropy gave a hand to those who had fallen on hard times. It was a time when the individual could run both his business and his personal affairs as he saw fit, freely reaping or suffering the consequences of his actions so long as those actions did not infringe upon the rights of another. People assumed responsibility for themselves, and, in return, enjoyed a level of freedom unknown by today's citizenry.

Today, big government is blamed for everything from our economic problems to a system of social services crumbling under its own weight. We blame the politicians for letting government become too bloated and inefficient, for imposing absurd mandates and prohibitions on business and upon the individual, for micro managing our lives and confiscating our earnings.

That blame is misplaced.

We, the people of this country, are to blame. No one else. Not the politicians. Not the bureaucrats. To curse the inefficiencies of government is to curse the face in the mirror. The government sow, by its very nature, has a voracious appetite, but it would never have grown so large had we not overfed it. Our Constitution did not design government to do anything but implement the provisions and principles enumerated in the document. When society demands government assume functions outside that sphere, we are requiring it to do something for which it was not designed. And it performs those functions poorly and inefficiently.

As a country, we now legislate philanthropy instead of being charitable. Less than a third of the taxes which fund government social programs actually escapes the bureaucracy. To the government the welfare recipient is a number and everyone is treated alike. Conversely, individuals and private charities spend less than a third of receipts on administration. If someone is abusing the generosity of private charity, they can be dealt with on an individual level. Encouragement toward becoming self supporting is more compelling when the donor and recipient are face to face. Private assistance fights poverty while government welfare contributes to it by causing dependency, by discouraging job seeking and by eliminating the need for self sufficiency.

Today, we require government prepare us for our retirement instead of assuming that responsibility ourselves. Most who have contributed to Social Security for twenty or more years would now have a sizeable retirement account if they had been allowed to invest it into something as stable as a bond fund - even if it were with after tax contributions. This would be our money, not a government rebate in the form of a monthly check at retirement. The sum of the monthly payments made to today's average Social Security recipient will not be equal to the principal contributed. The cost of government administration is driving the program into bankruptcy.

As a country, we now legislate morality and common sense instead of practicing it. We allow the state to tell us what we may watch on television, how we can medicate ourselves, how we must keep records and run our business, even how and to whom it is permissible to make love. We have lost sight of the difference between that which government must do to insure domestic tranquility and that which should be left to the conscience of the individual. If I elect not to install a wheelchair ramp in my place of business, the marketplace will judge my punishment, not the state. If I wish to keep nitro tablets for angina or epi pens for anaphylaxis in my medicine cabinet, it is not the province of government to preempt that choice or tell me I must have its permission.

Government has the moral and Constitutional obligation to promote the general welfare, not provide it. To promote means to nurture, not coerce. When we, the people, through the instrument of our government use the threat of force and incarceration to make into law that which should be discretionary to the individual, we usurp the rights and good will of the individual. We create disrespect for those fundamental laws needed to preserve the peace. We diminish the authority of law in the 'real' world beyond the Potomac.

Jack McNally

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