by John W. Ritenbaugh
CGG Weekly, March 16, 2007
"You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."
A recent news broadcast announced that concerned citizens from Charlotte were traveling to Raleigh, the state capital, to lobby for a change to a certain law. They want the state to return control of a provision in the law to the counties, giving local officials power to enact and enforce a county-wide smoking ban in all restaurants and bars. These days, few people enjoy contending with cigarette and cigar smoke while eating in a restaurant. To me, smoking is an addictive, detestable, suicidal habit, yet others do not see it that way. America is still a free country, and people can foul the air and damage their lungs if they so choose. Still, this situation triggered thoughts of "here we go again."
In the United States is a well-developed social and governmental movement that some commentators derisively name "nannyism." Political pundits also refer to it as "cradle to the grave" social care. This concept signals a major difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. Democrats promote it, virtually assuring their continued long tenures in political offices, while Republicans are generally against it, though even some of them accept a measure of it.
As a nanny state, Canada is ahead of America but lags behind England, Germany, and France, and far behind the Scandinavian countries. Tax rates in Europe are high due to the many costly social programs, yet this nannyism is at the root of Europe's growing social problems. Nations like Germany, France, Italy, England, Spain, and Sweden have native birth rates below replacement levels, and presently, their populations are aging into retirement. What did their politicians come up with to provide a large enough tax base to support their social programs? They opened their borders wide to Muslim immigration, and we hear the results on the evening news.
This provides evidence that for every social action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Nannyism also contributes to a decline of self-reliance and personal responsibility as it becomes more prevalent in the United States. This nation was settled and developed by self-reliant, self-motivated people. Yet, today, too many people seem frozen in place, waiting for the government to do something for them, a dependency called by some a "welfare mentality." People learn to work the system and somehow manage to be perpetually on the dole, refusing to make their own way through work.
Some fellowshipping with the church say that the church is responsible to take care of them. No, it is not. A Christian is responsible to provide care where there is an honest need, but not for one created by sheer laziness. Paul says plainly in II Thessalonians 3:10: "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." Jesus declares, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working" (John 5:17). He is our example. Paul also writes in I Timothy 5:8, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."
Nannyism and the resulting decrease in self-reliance and increase in irresponsibility are gaining speed as the return of Jesus Christ nears. This phenomenon occurs regardless of the form of government because it is a human nature problem, since it involves regulation and control of the populace. It gives credence to another general principle: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
My late father-in-law said that his father was the first person in his town to own an automobile. At the time, my father-in-law was a teenager, yet he drove the car! Then, the driver's license did not exist, since before that time, people rode on horses or in carriages to get around. But before long, drivers were required to register their vehicle with the state and to prove to a government official their ability to operate it. A number of years later, the state required the vehicle itself to be inspected. The state then issued the owner a license plate and a card that verified state approval. Of course, the owner had to pay the state for these "services." The state used the money to fund a department to serve us and simultaneously expand its powers! The bureaucracy was alive and growing, on its way to becoming Big Brother.
Soon, barbers, beauticians, restaurants, service stations, railroads, airlines, bus lines, canneries, meat packers, steel mills, etc., all needed government regulation. How many thousands of times was this regulation process repeated in different sectors of society? Each time a small bit of self-reliance, personal responsibility, and liberty was ceded to the state, as it established numerous bureaus and enacted thousands of laws controlling virtually every aspect of life and costing billions of tax dollars to implement. Slowly but surely somebody else became responsible.
Public irresponsibility is now seen nearly everywhere. For example, our roadways are littered with cigarette butts and the debris of thousands of fast food restaurants thoughtlessly tossed from passing vehicles. Not to worry, though: "The government is paying somebody to clean up the garbage. I am not responsible; they will take care of it."
Regulation of society is necessary, but the place where it should begin—and as much as possible end—is in the self. Responsible people have a quality—indeed, a virtue—that the irresponsible do not have: They care. They care about what God thinks. They care about what others think. They care about beauty and cleanliness. They care about peace and order. They care about the health and safety of others. Such people will regulate themselves; they do not need many laws issued by the state to tell them what to do because their caring virtually assures that they will do the right thing.
Self-reliance and responsibility is learned. The best place for it to be instilled is at home and as early as possible. When teaching children to be responsible, we must begin by instructing them to care for small things: for their toys, for their clothing, for their bedroom, for simple jobs. They must learn to be concerned about what Mom and Dad think of them, which begins to teach them the fear of God, the foundation of true wisdom (Proverbs 9:10; see Psalm 34:11). As their sense of responsibility strengthens and as they learn to care about the outcome of their lives, their desire to succeed through their own efforts increases, diminishing the likelihood that they will succumb to this curse on our society, the welfare mentality.