To The Daily Sun,
When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the 1830s, Andrew Jackson was president. He wrote, "Americans were constantly forming associations to advance the arts, build libraries and hospitals, and meet social needs of every kind. If something good needed to be done, it didn't occur to Andrew Jackson or his fellow citizens to expect politicians and bureaucrats, who were distant in both space and spirit, to do it for them."
Tocqueville also noted, "... among the laws that rule human societies, there is one which seems to be more precise and clear than all others. If men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve."
The 19th century produced a flowering of charitable functions unseen at any time or place in history. Organizations like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are but two of many that came into being. Unlike government programs that fail to perform and request more money, charitable organizations show results. If they did not, people would not continue to donate to them.
Free will gives private charities an element unseen in government functions. Where government gets bogged down in paperwork and catering to favoritism, the free party gives willingly of his/her time and resources. Peter Drucker, a management expert explains the difference. Both faith-based and secular "spend far less for results than governments spend for failure."
Grover Cleveland was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He was our 22nd and 24th president. It was said that he was so forthright and plain-spoken that he made Harry Truman appear indecisive by comparison. He felt it was dishonest to use government one's own benefit at other's expense. He became an early opposition to the welfare state.
Marvin Olasky, author of "The American Leadership Tradition," wrote, "When Cleveland was mayor of Buffalo, N.Y., in the early 1880s, his willingness to resist demands for government handouts made his name known throughout New York State, catapulting him to the governorship in 1882 and the presidency in 1884."
Cleveland vetoed 414 bills in his first term and 170 in his second term. He believed it was a "serious danger" that government should dispense favors and advantages to individuals or their businesses.
During President Grover Cleveland's term, Congress appropriated $10,000 to buy grain for the drought stricken Texans. President Cleveland vetoed the bill with these remarks: "The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune ... federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood."
Cleveland understood that taking from some to give to others as a violation of the Eighth and Tenth Commandments, which warn against envy. He noted, "It does not say though shall not steal unless the other guy has more than you do, or unless a government representative does it for you, unless you can't find anyone who will give it to you freely, or unless you're totally convinced you can spend it better than the guy to whom it belongs."
Author Marvin Olasky wrote in his 1999 book "The American Leadership Tradition" that private and voluntary donations poured in to Texas not long after president Cleveland's veto which amounted to at least 10 times what Congress had asked for." Since the Pilgrims landing in 1620 a self resiliency had been practiced. Of course the first year a form of socialism had been practiced and nearly decimated the group.
Since the 1930s, federal bureaucracies have undertaken the coercive practice of charity as to their understanding. Offices were created, of course, at a high cost to the American public. As soon as government charity (confiscation) took hold, politics entered the equation.
FDR said in his State of the Union Address on Jan. 4 of 1935, "The lessons of history, confirmed by evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. The federal government must and shall quit this business of relief". He did not keep his promise.
Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" cost $5 trillion. After 30 years, President Bill Clinton said, "We fought the War on poverty and lost." Had we listened to those who came before us we might have had fewer broken families, less idleness and far less inter generational dependency and hopelessness. Taxpayers have paid an enormous fortune that has not cured the problem.
Two major groups benefited from federal welfare. First: politicians who were elected as champions of the people became opportunist to the plight of the needy. Second: the bureaucracy became an army of professional poverty fighters, always secure in their position regardless of results. Economist Walter Williams noted, "A lot of people went to Washington to do good, and apparently have done very well."
Are we living in a more enlightened era? Our American ancestors did not have elaborate air conditioned board rooms to conspire ways to divide the wealth. They gave us the most inspired anti poverty in existence. It was called Liberty.
Thomas Jefferson, our third president gave us a prophetic warning in his Declaration of Independence when he listed offenses committed by the king. We would do well to read it, study it, and compare how close we have slipped into the despotic analogy of those times. He stated, "A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the read it has earned. This is the sum of good government." His uncanny wisdom gave this advice: "You don't tax people in New Hampshire in order to build a road in Georgia."
James Madison, our fourth president was visionary as well. He said, "the government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects, it is not like state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government."
Our founding generation would be saddened to see our day. To listen to politicians rant and rave on what they would give those who vote for them. Yet few even mention protection of liberty and property. Its a sick game that we have got ourselves into, and its weakening our core value. We are failing because we are using failed policies. Lets not elect those who sing the same old tired song of socialism. The first 20 presidents understood the constraints within the Constitution. America's security and liberty rests within the confines of that inspired charter. It will be our peril to trifle with it.
Gene F. Danforth