By James R. Cook
Our daily newspaper ran several articles about alcoholism and crime at one of Minnesota’s Indian reservations. Teenage boys and girls had been thrown in jail for drunkenness as many as fifteen times. There had been a brutal murder. I wrote the following letter to the editor about this problem.
"After one hundred years of subsidies native Americans are worse off. When is the left going to figure out that giving money to people that they didn’t earn is destructive to them? Liberals have done more harm than good with their runaway social sympathy. It’s time to acknowledge this failure.
"Instead you run an editorial that suggests the cure is to ‘listen to the elders.’ Do you expect us to take such sentimental fluff seriously? Stop the government money and let people sink or swim. That’s the cure and the only cure, no matter how you deny it or search for another answer."
My letter didn’t get published, so I e-mailed the following. "My letter on Leech Lake presented a viewpoint that was not covered by any of the other articles or opinions. Furthermore, it’s crucial to understanding the behavioral disaster on the reservations.
"Solicitations I receive from native American charities claim a 90% alcoholism rate on Minnesota reservations, yet your lead Sunday editorial suggests that reservation problems can somehow be solved by ‘listening to the elders.’
"You served up this bizarre opinion and nobody got to counter it. I believe my letter didn’t get published because of your editor’s liberal bias. Either that or your editor is inept in presenting all sides of an issue. Please note that I tried a second time. I believe my letter rankled liberal sentiments and was therefore rejected."
The whole matter caused me to think a lot about why liberals can’t seem to see the obvious. We’ve been giving billions of dollars to millions of people for decades. Anyone can see they are worse off for it. The number of people living on government subsidies continues to escalate. Bad behavior has become an epidemic. Without any requirement to work people begin to get bored. Too often, they turn to wrongdoing for stimulation.
In 1946, the U.S. began to send monthly checks to inhabitants of an island in the Pacific that was next to an atomic bomb testing site. These self-sufficient islanders fished as a way of life. "Sixty Minutes" did a segment on these people after forty years of living on the dole. Since they had no need to fish anymore many had forgotten how to fish. With no requirement to do anything, their alcohol consumption skyrocketed and social problems set in. Piles of beer cans and other junk marred the islands appearance.
Nothing damages people more than giving them money they didn’t earn. We have evolved through hardship. Economic challenges and financial struggles make us what we are. Remove the demand to make our own way and behavior deteriorates.
It’s hardly an original thought. They’ve been writing about it for centuries. "An idle man’s brain is the devil’s workshop," wrote Bunyan. The author Napoleon Hill said, "When any individual reconciles himself to the state of mind wherein he is willing to accept largess from the government instead of supplying his needs through personal initiative, that individual is on the road to decay and spiritual blindness." "I look at indolence as a sort of suicide," wrote Chesterfield. Beecher said, "If you are idle you are on the road to ruin, and there are few stopping places upon it. It is rather a precipice than a road." Emerson wrote, "He is base – and that is the one base thing in the universe – to receive favors and render none."
Management guru Peter Drucker wrote, "despite ever larger and constantly growing expenditures, the ‘welfare mess’ in the United States is getting steadily worse. In fact, a strong case can be made – and has been made – that the poor in America….have become the poorer, the more helpless, the more disadvantaged, the more welfare money is being spent to help them. American welfare spending encourages dependence. It paralyzes rather than energizes."
Proverbs express the absolute wisdom of the ages. "Idleness rusts the mind." "To do nothing teaches to do ill." "Industry is the parent of virtue." "Idleness is the root of all evil." "He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand." "It is a great weariness to do nothing."
Two hundred and fifty years ago the religionist Swedenborg described a process which goes on today in subsidizing the worst elements of society. "It is believed by many that love to the neighbour consists in giving to the poor, in assisting the needy, and in doing good to every one; but charity consists in acting prudently, and to the end that good may result. He who assists a poor or needy villain does evil to his neighbour through him; for through the assistance which he renders he confirms him in evil, and supplies him with the means of doing evil to others."
Every day incalculable numbers of children in our country are sexually and physically abused. They witness violence, mayhem and depravity. They hear vile language and often they go unsupervised, free to use drugs and keep the hours they choose. Their parents are totally unfit for child raising, yet they are subsidized all the more. Twenty-five million children live in homes without fathers. Two million have parents in prison. How is that a problem of this great dimension, surely the greatest problem facing any nation, is such a neglected topic?
In order to confront this behavioral disaster, the left would have to admit responsibility for engineering social programs that have gone astray. After all, it is their social sympathy and their politics that engineered the government schemes that weakened so many people. The policies they support are the cause of much of the misery they are so compassionate about. They meant to do good, but they did harm. It’s not easy for them to admit that their epic social blunder has ruined the character of so many people.
Because the left will refuse to see their mistake, they will continue to resist any kind of solution. So there is little or no hope that anything will change. We will continue to take increasing amounts of money from those who earned it and give it to increasing numbers of those who didn’t. Today both parties enthusiastically ladle out billions in subsidies. Unfortunately, the recipients will be all the worse for it. Does anybody seriously think this is going to have a good ending?