In today’s world, there is an issue with people seeking to blame outside sources for their own problems. The first op-ed that I ever wrote was titled “Black America Won’t Be Saved At The Ballot Box." In the piece, I delved into problems within the black community and I explained that the impetus for blacks to repair and level up our own communities and culture was ourselves, and not government bureaucrats or elected officials.
The issue of personal responsibility reminds me of when comedian and political commentator Bill Maher was talking to Joe Rogan in early 2020 before the pandemic hit. In their conversation, they discussed the obesity epidemic plaguing the nation. Maher made a fantastic point when he said, “Nobody’s healthcare system is gonna work…unless the people have skin in the game. You can’t eat as much as you want...and expect us to cover the bill.” Though I am a conservative and Maher considers himself a classical liberal, we are saying the same thing: People have to take ownership and responsibility for their own lives and not look to others to blame for their lot in life.
In 1964, during his State of the Union address, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty.” That was 58 years ago and what an absolute disaster it has been. According to historian Joshua Zeitz’s book, Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson’s White House and the Foundation for Economic Education, under President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, single-parent households were incentivized, which led to the number of single-parent households increasing. Not only did this lead to a massive welfare state, but people were incentivized not to work, and it kept people reliant on government aid.
I do not blame President Johnson for all of these problems but the point is that dependency on the government only leads to a cycle of having “barely enough” and misery.
So what has happened over time is that instead of self-reflecting, taking responsibility, and adjusting their own behavior, many people have become reliant upon the government and when they don’t get what they want, they often turn to riots, protests, and demonstrations. The government was never meant to be anyone’s savior. People who look to the government for help and solutions in the end often receive incompetence, indecisiveness, and inaction.
Economist Thomas Sowell explained in his book Wealth, Poverty and Politics that during Johnson’s era of civil rights legislation and war on poverty, there were great amounts of demonstrations among ghettos. Conversely, during the Reagan era, welfare state programs were opposed, and there were fewer demonstrations. In short, people pointed the finger at themselves when they were made to stand on their own feet in contrast to acting like petulant, spoiled children demanding free stuff from their parents.
Welfare can and often does cause recipients to suckle at the government’s teat for years. To be clear, I’m not an advocate of zero welfare. Tragedy and hard times can strike anyone at any time and there certainly should be a safety net provided by the American government for American citizens.
I simply believe welfare needs to greatly be tapered off to the point where people cannot just stay on it for years at a time and/or receive benefits when they have made significant bad life choices. Welfare should be reserved for those who are in dire situations not caused by their own hand and there needs to be a permanent cut-off period.
America is the land of opportunity, and to take advantage of the afforded opportunity, a person must put their hands to the plow and work. It is sad that there is great resentment toward the rich and wealthy, with the misconception that they were given their money and status. But it is an unfair and inaccurate assessment because according to Ramsey Solutions, 80% of millionaires did not receive any inheritance from their parents and are self-made. Only 3% received an inheritance of $1 million or more. It’s just as 17th-century English politician Algernon Sydney wrote, “God helps those who help themselves.”
When people work and stand on their own feet, they take charge of their life, they build themselves, and their families. Government is no longer looked at as the leader and the savior. Once individuals begin to see their own agency and power, it is at that moment their life instantly begins to improve.