WASHINGTON. In the late 1770s, a majority of American colonists decided that no price was too high to pay for freedom. After winning that freedom from Great Britain and successfully establishing an independent country, our forefathers created a republic and a culture they believed would lead to a free and prosperous new nation. They reasoned that maximizing both individual freedom and individual responsibility among America’s citizenry would be the key to a much brighter future.
They also knew in their minds and hearts that the United States of America would someday be the leader of a free world, and would become the most prosperous country the world had even known. It was an audacious vision.
The four principles that led to America’s success
In order for the US to become the largest, most prosperous economy in the world, this country’s founders and their successors established four key principles for themselves and their fellow citizens.
- Individual freedom
- Individual responsibility
- Low rates of taxation
- A limited role for government
Adhering to and promoting these principles allowed Americans to freely pursue their interests, and permitted them to keep nearly all of the income they earned. These were powerful incentives for the first Americans. And they still are, as long as the country continues to follow them.
By adhering to these principles, the US progressed from its difficult early days to become the largest and most prosperous economy in the world. All in the short span of about 150 years. In a remarkably short time, the energetic US economy grew larger than the economies of countries hundreds and in some cases thousands of years older and vastly more populous.
But history rarely progresses in a straight line. During America’s journey to the top, small groups and organizations surfaced from time to time that vigorously opposed this country’s recipe for freedom, success and prosperity. Notably, an understandable and very real push to move away from individual responsibility and toward “social responsibility” began to unfold in the 1930s in the depths of the Great Depression.
Reacting to this economic disaster, the Federal government, through Congress and the Roosevelt Administration, passed the landmark Social Security Act (SSA). The SSA provided supplemental income security for the elderly. In so doing, this legislation imposed some limits on economic freedom along with higher rates of taxation and greater Federal government involvement.
Then in the mid-1960s, the Johnson administration pushed the vast Medicare entitlement legislation through a largely willing, Democrat-led Congress. That program provided greatly subsidized health care for the elderly. But again, in so doing, this legislation further reduced individual freedom and individual responsibility. It also raised taxes considerably, and once again substantially increased the involvement of the Federal government.
Government spending tops $4 trillion annually
This fiscal year, the Federal government will spend $4.4 trillion dollars. That’s $4,400,000,000,000 just this year alone. Of that amount, $2.7 trillion, about 60% of the total, will be for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, America’s so-called “entitlements.” These government engineered social responsibility programs remove individual responsibility, relentlessly increase the rate of taxation and further increase the involvement of government in every citizen’s life.
Since Americans are compassionate and prosperous we to recognize a responsibility for protecting the vulnerable among us. For that reason, it makes sense to provide some security for the very young and the very old who are not in a position to be completely responsible for themselves.
Should American taxpayers subsidize “Easy Street” for all Americans, even those who refuse to work?
The problem with this approach is with the other able-bodied adults that don’t wish to accept individual responsibility. Many of the current social welfare proposals voiced by the current crop of potential presidential candidates offer to trade individual freedom and responsibility in for collective “social responsibility.” Or “social justice” in current acceptable jargon.
Massachusetts’ Senator Elizabeth Warren, for example, wants to take the responsibility of paying for college away from the student and place it onto society. In other words, she wants to remove the individual responsibility to repay the debt that allowed a student to become a well-educated person. She wants the debt to be repaid by society, even if many in that society never undertook such debt due to their own financial situations.
Bernie Sanders and others want to take away individuals’ responsibility to pay for their own health care. In turn, they wish once again to replace individual responsibility with social responsibility. Their proposed “Medicare for All” program likewise would limit individual freedom, eliminate individual responsibility, increase the rate of taxation and increase the involvement of of the Federal government in all Americans’ lives.
Imposing ever more social responsibility on individual Americans is wrong for America
These programs are simply wrong for the United States. They also fly in the face of the principles that made this country great to begin with. We should be working toward goals exactly opposite of the outcomes that these “social justice” programs would produce. To keep our economy strong and the country prospering, new programs should faithfully follow the basic principles that made this county great.
Doing precisely that yields positive results. In 2017, the Trump administration quickly eliminate onerous and absurd government regulations – and therefore government involvement – in many industries. The result? Economic growth shot up from 2% to 3%. In short order.
Then for 2018, the GOP-led Congress drastically cut prevailing Federal tax rates for businesses and individuals alike. The lower rate of taxation allowed the economy to grow at a 3% rate and higher. That’s something the previous administration deemed impossible. Today, the full effect of the tax cut is rippling through our economy. As a result, we will likely experience higher growth rates later this year and next. Already, Q1 2019 surprised analysts and economists on the upside.
We still need to restore individual responsibility in America
On the other hand, in the area of individual responsibility, we haven’t seen much recent change. But it remains important that we continue to improve in this area. Increasing individual responsibility to earlier levels can push the Federal government out of areas in which it never belonged. In so doing, government can once again become less involved and less intrusive in economic activities. Historically, that tends to help economic growth accelerate .
Reducing the intrusiveness of government can also pave the way to lower rates of taxation. That means individual can discover one again that they can achieve success through their own efforts. In so doing, most of the earnings from that success will end up in their own pockets. Not the increasingly redistributive pockets of the Federal government. That simple fact provides a real incentive for Americans to work hard and produce more.
Individual freedom, individual responsibility, low rates of taxation and a limited role for government. These four principles are precisely what made the American economy so great. To continue America’s greatness, we need to look back on our history. America’s government policies should once again strongly reflect those original, timeless and very American values.
— Headline image: Cartoon by Garrison. Reproduced with permission and by arrangement with grrgraphics.com.