Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Financial Responsibility

Most of you know how I feel about government involvement in the economy and the like. Even so, I would like to spark a conversation. This is not a conversation about Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives or Liberals. I don't really care for the tags. I am more interested in doing the responsible thing and finding the best solution for a problem. In that, I may have to give some stuff up but so might you and your neighbor.

I taught high school economics for 3 years. We always started the semester with a discussion of wants and needs and then transitioned into a discussion of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. I always found it interesting that high school seniors sometimes had a tough time distinguishing wants from needs. I will look at this in a moment, back to the Adam Smith book. One of the main themes of this book is that if each individual does what is best for himself, the group benefits. In other words, if everyone looks out for themselves, the group doesn't have to help and thus the whole group flourishes. I used to think it was that simple. Now I am seeing how much more complicated it is.

I can take care of myself to some extent. I am greatly aided by the group as well. For example, I could go cut down a tree on my property and sell it. I am aided by the group in that I have roads to help me transport that tree to my buyer. For the most part, I don't have to worry about someone killing me and stealing my tree because I have police protection. I also have the benefit of a stable monetary system (which is a whole other argument but for this illustration it is a benefit) that allows us to have a medium with which to conduct business. Just in that little example, I am aided by three different entities, at three different levels of government (state or municipality for the roads, municipality or county for the police, federal for the money). Did I sell that tree on my own?

At the same time, I am utilizing vehicles already in place that enable me to take care of myself. It was my entrepreneurial spirit that told me to cut the tree, set a price and sell it. It was me that did the work and it was me that reaps the benefits. Should a portion of my reward be required to go to someone who chose not to work or to an entity that wastes money like a crazy person? It's truly a tough call. I did what's best for myself, I am not a burden on the group but I benefit from the group.

On the flip side, there are people who cannot care for themselves. What do we do with them? Is it private charity that should care for them? Is it government that should care for them? Is it individuals that should care for them? Should anyone care for them? I don't know the right answer here. I tend to think the private sector would do a better job if they didn't have the government crutch saying they will just handle it but I have no evidence of that.

I still think that less government involvement is best and I can't stand the thought of a "benevolent" government that is there to care for and nurture it's citizens. That makes me very uncomfortable. If they care so much for us then they start to have a say in our liberties, just like our parents did. That said, I certainly see the need for safety nets. I just don't want those safety nets to become comfortable cocoons for lazy people on my dime.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

It is my belief that most people want others to be happy, not living in misery. I really don't think a healthy community would let a fellow citizen live in misery due to circumstances beyond control. Thus, I believe (in most cases) we the people will care for we the people. And, I believe that we would care for each other on our own volition, free from obligation (whether enforced by government or religion).

You may say that this is a bit Pollianic thinking. Well, if you don't believe the same, then why do you continue to live in a depraved community. Seriously, if you can't say that those around you care more for your happiness than your misery, then you're living in a horrible environment. They would rather take advantage of you than help you in a time of need.

In theory, I think that communities could put the government out of work when it comes to supporting the needy. It is my opinion that if we truly cared for the "needs" of our fellow man, set community standards of being self-supporting when able, we would help the government out of opportunities to help at all. And, in doing so, I think we'd help out in more efficient ways than the government.

Now, how do we make this plan happen? Well, start with yourself. Are you doing what you can to help others? I know I'm not... just sayin'...

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