Two unrelated controversies have me thinking about dependency in our society.
The Legislature has given its annual thumbs-down to baiting deer, but the proposal went deeper into the political process this year than ever before. Secondly, with Republicans gaining tenuous control of Washington, the liberals are proclaiming foul weather ahead for the downtrodden.
Both of these seemingly unrelated issues actually share the common thread of creating dependency.
Where deer baiting is practiced, some of the survival instincts of the deer are subordinated to the lure of easy living. Everything in life has a price and baiting is no exception. For the deer, the price is increased mortality. For the hunters who provide the bait, the cost is the bait, which is exchanged for easier hunting. Both hunter and hunted become dependent on the bait. Both pay for their dependency through dulled instincts and decreased ability to function in the wild.
Creating dependency with people is no different. In my view, independence is the worst nightmare for liberals. If people can function successfully on their own, who will need the army of liberal do-gooders to provide them succor? The liberals face the very real possibility of extinction when threatened with increasing independence of their clientele.
The liberals have created a seamless net of public policy to insure continuing dependency and thus job security. Most conservatives, on the other hand, search for ways to increase independence and therefore represent a real threat to institutionalized liberalism. Both the deer and the downtrodden would fare better if they were left to their own devises with a comprehensive safety net to prevent real catastrophe.
Conservatives are in no way innocent of playing the dependency card.
All of us use dependency to further our interests. Employee benefits are the most common form of business dependency. The employee’s right to their pension is fettered by vesting schedules requiring them to remain employed by the same company for long periods to maximize benefit. All of us have acquaintances who have wanted to change jobs or start their own business but were discouraged by the prospect of losing health insurance coverage.
In many instances, a measure of dependency is required to maintain solid relationships. All contracts have as their basic purpose causing the parties to do, or not to do, something. Marriage contracts create a substantial dependence between the partners. In these instances, forfeiting a degree of independence in exchange for relational benefits is a good thing. It adds predictability to our otherwise chaotic environment.
President Bush is proposing using federal dollars to fund certain faith-based organizations and thereby add another link to the dependency chain. I shudder when I think of the potential for destroying our faith-based organizations by making them dependent on the government for their daily bread. Overall, faith-based, religious organizations perform yeoman duty in caring for the spiritual needs of their congregations and providing needed social services to the less fortunate. Their support comes from voluntary contributions made by people who truly are committed to making things better. Should President Bush’s proposal to interject federal funding into the faith-based arena become reality, the consequences will be dire indeed.
First, there is the issue of separation of church and state. How can the government fund any particular faith-based group without making them the official state religion? People of faith are strongly opposed to groups other than their own and would forcefully object to their tax dollars being given to groups they believe are in consort with the devil himself. Many Mississippians would cheer the prospect of federal tax dollars going to Southern Baptist programs, but seethe at funding for Louis Farrakhan’s ministry. Presumably, both groups would be eligible for funding consideration.
Secondly, if the separation problem isn’t enough, there is the issue of fixing things that aren’t broke. No federal dollar comes without regulatory strings as big as hawser ropes attached. Our revered and highly effective faith-based groups would be converted to bureaucratic paper pushers and lobbyists. Not a pretty sight.
Once the federal dollars began to flow, many loyal supporters of faith-based organizations would pocket their checkbooks and let the government tote the load. Thus, voluntary contributions would be replaced by tax dollars. Organizations must pamper their benefactors and the benefactors would shift from being the organization members to the federal government. A new governmental dependency would be created before our very eyes. No, no. Say it ain’t so! The federal government is like a bad relative — you push ‘em out the front door and they come sneaking in the back door.
If all other arguments fail to persuade, just consider the stellar record the federal government has amassed in solving our social problems over the last 40 years. Crime eliminated, drugs gone, families together, everybody educated, economic pie evenly distributed. Just imagine what they can do to and for the faith-based institutions.
Thought for the Moment
Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel. — Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at email@example.com.