“Personal responsibility” is such an old-fashioned topic — and today it seems as if it’s verboten! After all, isn’t the government supposed to be responsible for everyone and everything? Here’s Thomas Sowell in the first of a two-part article:
Among the many disturbing signs of our times are conservatives and libertarians of high intelligence and high principles who are advocating government programs that relieve people of the necessity of working to provide their own livelihoods.
Generations ago, both religious people and socialists were agreed on the proposition that “he who does not work, neither shall he eat.” Both would come to the aid of those unable to work. But the idea that people who simply choose not to work should be supported by money taken from those who are working was rejected across the ideological spectrum.
How we got to the present situation is a long story, but the painful fact is that we are here now. Among the leading minds of our times, including Charles Murray today and the late and great Milton Friedman earlier, there have been proposals for ways of subsidizing the poor without the suffocating distortions of the government’s welfare state bureaucracy.
Professor Friedman’s plan for a negative income tax to help the poor has already been put into practice. But, contrary to his intention to have this replace the welfare state bureaucracy, it has been simply tacked on to all the many other government programs, instead of replacing them.
It is not inevitable that the same thing will happen to Charles Murray’s plan, but I would bet the rent money that there would be the same end result.
Just what specific problem is so dire as to cause some conservatives and libertarians to propose that the government come to the rescue by giving every adult money to live on without working?
Poverty? “Poverty” today means whatever government statisticians in Washington say it means — no more and no less. Most Americans living below the official poverty line today have central air-conditioning, cable television for multiple TV sets, own at least one motor vehicle, and have many other amenities that most of the human race never had for most of its existence.
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Here is part two: Is Personal Responsibility Obsolete?: Part II.
Image credit: Thomas Sowell / The Hoover Institution.