In their passion to achieve a government-crafted utopia, the liberal/progressive movement often does more harm than good. This is because their tool of choice – the government – can only apply superficial solutions that come with harmful side effects.
Efforts to correct “income inequality” and “fight poverty” through government entitlement programs are a prime example. As columnist George Will recently asked and answered, “[W]hat if large causes of poverty are not matters of material distribution but are behavioral – bad choices and the cultures that produce them? If so, policymakers must rethink their confidence in social salvation through economic abundance.”
Exactly. Even if the government could afford to provide for the basic needs of its citizens from a budgetary perspective (it can’t), doing so would not address many of the root causes of poverty: out-of-wedlock childbirth, divorce and unemployment.
Now consider the push to impose an increasing number and variety of legal restrictions and regulations upon gun ownership. While some basic requirements, like background checks, make sense as a way of making it harder for criminals to obtain weapons, many of the left’s proposals for “gun control” do more to burden law-abiding sportsmen and homeowners than to actually keep anyone safe from criminal activity.
Statistics show that the vast majority of crimes committed with firearms are not committed by the legal owner of the firearm, so it makes little sense to make it more difficult for citizens to legally acquire and carry guns; the citizens who jump through these legal hoops are not the problem.
Nevertheless, liberals like writer Warren Blumenfeld advocate onerous government restrictions upon the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, including limiting the number of firearms a person can own, the number of rounds a firearm magazine can hold and “re-thinking” concealed-carry laws.
Right now, conservative watchdog group 2nd Vote, is conducting a scientific experiment to test its theory that in fact, “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” The group has set up a live “gun cam” to monitor one particular gun for criminal behavior.
It may be a silly stunt, but it makes the point: More rules and regulations aimed at an inanimate object aren’t going to make us safer from criminals intent upon destruction.
Let’s look at one more example: funding for education. We see a continuous push for government to invest more and more money in education. Anyone who opposes it is demonized.
I don’t think anyone would argue about the value of good education and its importance to society, so if increased spending on education translated into better-educated students, then it would make a lot of sense. But a study released by the Heritage Foundation several years ago revealed that the steady increase in funding for education over time has not produced corresponding gains in educational achievement.
What does make a difference? According to another Heritage study, the structure and stability of the child’s family and parental involvement in schoolwork have a huge impact on academic performance.
But, sadly for the government-is-the-answer crowd, these are not factors that can be addressed by budgetary line items.
There is a lot to be admired about the liberal/progressive movement. I believe most of the activists within this camp are truly motivated by a legitimate, noble concern for others. This should be recognized and commended. But there is a gaping hole in their worldview; it’s the vacant place where one looks for a link between the proposed solutions – which invariably involve government – and the problems meant to be solved.
Government is not a tool capable of resolving all human struggles, and in America, that was recognized from the start. As Thomas Paine wrote, in “Common Sense,” “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively, by uniting our affections; the latter negatively, by restraining our vices.”
The role of government in improving human society is a narrowly limited one: to protect its citizens’ rights, to punish wrongdoing and to point people toward the universal Moral Law through basic legal codes that reinforce its fundamental tenets.
When government goes much beyond this, either by using such a broad brush to eliminate harm that it intrudes upon law-abiding citizens or by seeking to become, itself, a positive doer of good in society, the result will invariably be some combination of the following: a contraction of its citizens’ liberty, an erosion of their charitable instincts and personal responsibility, and a colossal waste of money.