The Bigger the Government, the Smaller the Citizen

Townhall | Dennis Prager | Sep. 1, 2009

Those of us who oppose a massive increase in the role the national government plays in health care (“ObamaCare”) do so because we fear the immense and unsustainable national debt it would incur and because we are certain that medical care in America would deteriorate. But there is a bigger reason most of us oppose it: We believe that the bigger the government becomes, the smaller the individual citizen becomes.

Here are five reasons why bigger government makes less impressive people.

1. People who are able to take care of themselves and do so are generally better than people who are able to take care of themselves but rely on others. Of course, there are times when some people have absolutely no choice and must rely on others to take care of them. Life is tragic and some people, despite their best efforts and their commitment to being a responsible person, must have others support them.

Even if one believes, as the left does by definition, that the ideal society is one in which the state takes care of as many of our needs as possible, one must acknowledge that this has deleterious effects on many, if not most, citizens’ moral character. The moment one acknowledges that the more one takes care of oneself, the more developed is his or her character, one must acknowledge that a bigger state diminishes its citizens’ characters.

Presumably one might argue that there is no relationship between character development and taking responsibility for oneself. But to do so is to turn the concept of character, as it has been understood throughout Judeo-Christian and Western history, on its head. The essence of good character is to care of oneself and then take of others who cannot take care of themselves.

2. The more people come to rely on government, the more they develop a sense of entitlement — an attitude characterized by the belief that one is owed (whatever the state provides and more). This is a second big government blow to character development because it has at least three terrible consequences:

First, the more one feels entitled, the less one believes he has to work for anything. Why work hard if I can look to the state to give much of what I need, and, increasingly, much of what I want? Second, the more one feels entitled, the less grateful one feels. This is obvious: The more one expects to be given, the less one is grateful for what one is given. Third, the more entitled and the less grateful one feels, the angrier one becomes. The opposite of gratitude is not only ingratitude, it is anger. People who do not get what they think they are entitled to become angry.

3. People develop disdain for work.

One of the effects of the welfare state on vast numbers of European citizens is disdain for work. This is in keeping with Marx’s view of utopia as a time when people will work very little and devote their large amount of non-working time writing poetry and engaging in other such lofty pursuits. Work is not regarded by the left as ennobling. It is highly ennobling in the American value system, however.

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7 thoughts on “The Bigger the Government, the Smaller the Citizen

  1. We need gov’t to get out of health care-Medicaid, etc.. which is consuming the better part of the U.S. budget, and provides a free reason to increase costs of services far beyond the inflation rate.

  2. Micah writes: “We need gov’t to get out of health care-Medicaid, etc..”

    Ok, great idea. Then what?

    Let’s look at a small example. I know a lady who is disabled and has stage 4 ovarian cancer. With continued treatment she might live a few more years. She is on Social Security disability and Medicaid is her only insurance. So we eliminate Medicaid. And then what happens to her? What is your Plan B?

  3. Jim, Jim–still at it I see. I rather doubt that Micah is advocating an immediate termination of all government monies and plans. You twisted logic makes it seem as if you are compassionate and the ONLY course of action is more of the same–a neat way to try to cut off debat with a disguised ad hominum attack. You clearly imply that any one who even suggests a change in the status quo wants to kill everyone.

    Have you ever thought that the lady is now dependent on Medicare because of a climate and environment of dependence created by government and demogoged by most politicians even more dishonestly than you are doing.

    How ’bout actually thinking about effective ways to decrease government dependency while at the same time avoiding rationing.

  4. Michael writes: “I rather doubt that Micah is advocating an immediate termination of all government monies and plans. You twisted logic makes it seem as if you are compassionate and the ONLY course of action is more of the same–a neat way to try to cut off debat with a disguised ad hominum attack.”

    Hi Michael, long time no see.

    Actually I don’t know what Micah is advocating because he didn’t say. If he has a “better mousetrap” I’d like to know what that is. My point was only that Medicaid is not some abstract program, but that there are real people in serious situations involved.

    Michael: “How ’bout actually thinking about effective ways to decrease government dependency while at the same time avoiding rationing.”

    Yeah, how about that? Any ideas? The problem I have is that so many times I hear conservatives offer half of a solution — “we need to eliminate X.” But what is the other half? With what, if anything, do we replace it? Medicaid isn’t a perfect program, but it does what it’s supposed to do. So it seems odd to me to advocate getting rid of it wihtout being able to articulate what the alternative should be.

  5. Hi, a news report wrote that Medicaid is outsourced to private companies which are interested in profits, of course. As long as the gov’t is willing to pay for everything, why not raise rates? Doctor’s like to check and re-check and put a person under many tests often because of fear, rather than stating what it is about. I’m an American living in Russia with a state health care plan, so I can see both sides. I’ve also worked as an intern at the Budget Committee in D.C. back in 1989. I think then, Medicaid was overtaking the budget by half. Maybe I’m wrong. There are indeed many people completely poor and dependent on Medicaid. An answer would be to cut off Medicaid on the wealthiest (those who earn over 100K) and put immediate price caps, and then start a government pull-out over the next 10 years. Since no one in politics wants to be teaching a part-time job at a community college, no one wants to take a stand against Medicaid. Americans work better without the gov’t getting involved with their lives. The gov’t should pass laws to protect, but not to try to create various needs in society.

  6. Micah, I think you’re talking about Medicare (a federal program) not Medicaid (state medical assistance programs). It is true that Medicare contracts out its claims administration, and also has contracts with certain HMOs (e.g., Kaiser).

    Just because the government pays for Medicare doesn’t meant that providers can charge anything they want. In fact, the reverse is true — Medicare dictates what they will pay the providers. But here’s one area in which Medicare is damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If Medicare did pay whatever they were charged, the political right would say “look, here’s a government program wasting money.” If Medicare controls payments in an attempt to save money and force providers to be more efficient, the political right says “look, here’s a big government agency hurting the private sector.”

    I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t have a means test for Medicaid, or a sliding payment scale. I don’t know why that wasn’t done years ago, but no doubt there is some political reason.

    If you want to have a gradual “goverment pull-out” the question remains — what, if anything, would replace Medicare?

  7. Jim, how did people live without Medicare before? Were we able to somehow muddle through life without the gov’t getting involved? It becomes a middleman at the very least, along with insurance providers. The costs are absurd. Very easy for gov’t to get involved-and the Democrats use each crisis to push an agenda. For America, we need our independence. What works in other countries, won’t work well here.
    In Russia, a doctor sometimes will place a woman in the hospital for a week of rest sometimes during pregnancy if needed, and it is free. Any time of the day, emergency care can be called for to come directly to the house-for free. After a child is born, and the 5-7 day stay in the hospital is done, a nurse or doctor visits every few days to check on the baby. Every month for the first year, a child must go to the local children’s hospital for examination-for free. These doctors and nurses work for 400$ or so a month.
    Health care in America is becoming completely “money” oriented-it is a huge sprawling and uncontrolled and poorly regulated system, in my opinion.

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