I’m reading Martin van Creveld’s The Rise and Decline of the State and came across this passage regarding government centralizing services:
By that time even the United States, traditionally the stronghold of rugged individualism and low taxes (to make the House of Lords vote money for his plans, Lloyd George had threatened to create the necessary number of new peers), was feeling the need to do something for its working population. A modest first step had been taken in 1912 when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed a law requiring the payment of minimum wages. However, it only lasted a few years; in 1923 a Supreme Court decision declared a State of Oregon minimum-wage law for women unconstitutional. Other measures to extend government control and limit private enterprise were equally unsuccessful. For example, the number of persons who benefited from a government vocational education scheme instituted in 1917 was so small that statistics about it simply ceased to be published. In 1920 a law calling for the abolition of child labor failed to make it through Congress. Five years later, a Kansas law for the compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes was similarly thrown out of the High Court. In 1929, the last year of prosperity, all American federal welfare expenditure combined only amounted to $0.25 per head of population, which constituted perhaps one percent of its British equivalent.
In the event it took the Great Depression and 12 million unemployed to shake the United States out of the world of laissez faire and into the one in which, whatever the names attached to the various schemes, welfare came to be financed out of taxation. The foundations were laid in 1933 when President Roosevelt, ignoring howls of Republican opposition, set up the Federal Emergency Relief Agency (FERA). Its first director was a social worker, Harry Hopkins; armed with a war chest of $500,000,000, it provided work for at least some of those who needed it. Over the next six years this and numerous other programs led to the spending of some $13 billion over and the construction of 122,000 public buildings, 77,000 bridges, and 64,000 miles of roads inter alia – all, however, without making a real dent in the Depression which only ended in September 1939 when, following the outbreak of war in Europe, the stock exchange went through the roof.
Administratively speaking, the annus mirabilis of the New Deal proved to be 1935. That year saw the introduction of social security including old-age insurance and assistance, unemployment compensation, aid to dependent children, and aid to the blind. In 1939 survivors’ and disability insurance, already a standard feature in the most advanced European countries, were added to the list. By that time every American citizen had been issued with his or her social security card and the Department of Health and Human Services had been created to oversee the system’s operation. Even the Supreme Court was prepared to cooperate, though not before Roosevelt, having fought a battle royal with Congress, packed it with his own supporters. In 1937 a Washington State minimum wage law was declared constitutional. Another ruling did the same for social security itself; the age of big government had truly begun.
If only we could go back to the days where the Supreme Court actually respected the Constitution and “rugged individualism” was the law of the land. Instead we let the socialists take over and burden us with the albatrosses of welfare and social security, and a bit later open borders.
Self-responsibility is a powerful motivator. Yes, some people suffered by some of those Supreme Court decisions and yes, some people would have suffered if some of those social service programs weren’t in place (note that these social service programs did not end the Depression). But you know what? Having the onus on you and you alone to survive and fulfill your destiny is a powerful motivator. When there is no guaranteed safety net most people will be motivated to work, or else that’s it. With that also comes a greater sense of satisfaction. And it is better for EVERYONE in the long run. Sometimes we need to let things fail. Some short-term pain saves a lot worse long-term suffering. These decisions made decades ago have shackled us and our children and future generations. They have destroyed far more lives than the few individuals who would have suffered at the time.
Adding these disastrous programs, in combination with the 1965 Immigration Act, which opened the floodgates for people who had no allegiance to the founding of the country and do not have the will (or often the capacity) to possibly live up to the original American ideal, and you have a bonafide disaster on your hands. The demographic alteration that took place because of that cannot be emphasized enough. The country, as it was before these social services programs and opening the borders, fundamentally changed forever. And for the worse.