WASHINGTON – “Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit”.
Aid is bad for you
This is a pretty accurate description of the long-term (unintended, we hope) consequences of well intentioned, government-funded economic welfare programs. Indeed, if all you do is to give aid for free, and with no time limit to needy people, you end up making them perpetual dependents.
Like it or not, by allowing disadvantaged people to get by without any personal effort, you kill their motivation to do their best to help themselves. Yes, if this is the substance of public assistance programs, relief becomes indeed a “narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit”.
Who said it?
Well, agree or disagree, it is interesting to find out who said this. An easy answer would be Ronald Reagan, the somewhat romantic champion of unfettered free market capitalism, the high priest of celebrated American values centered on self-reliance, and indomitable “do-it-yourself” spirit.
According to Reagan, Americans do not want aid. No, the want freedom; so that they can take care of themselves, relying on their own efforts.
But no. It was not Ronald Reagan who said this. Actually, It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And he said this in 1935, when millions of impoverished Americans were still dealing with the devastating consequences of the Great Depression.
What? FDR, the Father of the New Deal, and of the beginnings of the U.S. Welfare State said that relief was a “narcotic“?
Yes, he did. Which is to say that in a more enlightened era, even those who created new public assistance programs in order to deal with emergency situations, understood that those programs should be limited in size and scope.
But already long ago we forgot FDR’s warnings. Now nowadays anybody aspiring to elected office will promise more and larger programs, for ever larger constituencies. And yes, whatever may be said officially, all voters are led to believe that the benefits will never stop. In fact, now the recipients assert that they are entitled to receiving them. Welfare and relief somehow have become new civil rights.
Bad policies inspired by political goals
And so politicians administer free benefits/narcotics, even though many of them know full well that these benefits are “destroyers of the human spirit”. In fact, this may be the main reason why they spread them around so lavishly. Giving away all sorts of free goodies may help them at election time. (“If you re-elect me, there will be more programs, just for you”).
However, because of these ill-advised policies the fabric of the American society will be progressively eroded. Large armies of people relying on some form of welfare cannot be expected to be productive citizens eager to face challenges.
More of the same
Yes, after decades of experimentation with ill-advised welfare programs which induce dependence, by now we should know that “continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit”. Yes, all politicians should know this. And yet they continue promoting these policies and remedies.
I guess trying to get elected is a much more important goal than promoting the public good.