Do you remember your Laura Ingalls Wilder books? I don’t know about you, but these classic stories of a pioneer childhood give me a full-blown inferiority complex. Looking over what Laura’s parents, Charles and Caroline (and later Laura and her husband) did in a normal day’s work puts me to shame. With little more than a few hand tools and a lot of know-how, they created homes from bare dirt and grew their own food. They tried to depend on no one because often there was no one around to depend on. What they couldn’t afford they did without. When they did borrow money, it often got them in trouble and they regretted it.
The Ingalls family tried never to be “beholden” to anyone. The only time they ever took a government handout was when they participated in the Homestead Act.
In the sequels to the “Little House” series, written by Rose Wilder Lane’s heir, Roger Lea MacBride, Laura and her husband, Almanzo, moved to Missouri, bought land and spent many years making it into a productive farm. In these books, Laura speaks disparagingly about the Homestead Act. “It’s a sin and a shame what the government in Washington did to folks, promising them free land,” Laura says. “Free land indeed. It only shows that no good ever comes of getting something for nothing. It nearly ruined my pa, and look what it did to us. Every soul ought to pay his way in this world. It’s the only honest and true way to live.”
What would Laura have to say about the extensive welfare and entitlements rampant today?
In Thomas Sowell’s column “Myths about the ‘poverty-stricken,’” he says, “We don’t need to send the country into bankruptcy, in the name of the poor, by spending trillions of dollars on people who are not poor, and who could take care of themselves. The poor have been used as human shields behind which the expanding welfare state can advance.”
And why, any sane person should ask, would the government want to expand the welfare state? What good are millions of welfare people to the government? What kind of money trail should we follow?
“The goal,” continues Sowell, “is not to keep the poor from starving but to create dependency, because dependency translates into votes for politicians who play Santa Claus. … ‘Entitlement’ is just a fancy word for dependency.” [emphasis added]
I see this dependency as one of the major stumbling blocks against this country ever regaining the independent pioneer spirit we once possessed. Entitlements and the dependency it creates are bringing this nation to its knees, both financially and morally. Indeed, for millions of people, it has already done so.
Putting aside the astounding concept that a bunch of uneducated pioneer yokels could build homes and towns that still stand today (while modern homes meeting stringent government-imposed building codes fall apart within decades), very few of us have the skills, morals and mental strength to go through life without looking for a handout.
This issue of entitlements is becoming more important because we (as a nation) are becoming less able to get by without them. As hard times come and we face the very real possibility of an economic collapse, there will be millions of people whose entitlements will simply vanish. What will they do then?
The trouble with government handouts is when – not if, but when – they disappear, people are left in a very bad way. It will be as if they suddenly become unemployed. But at least with unemployment, it presumes you’ve been employed. You have a work history and job skills you can use to your advantage when seeking another job. But the dependent class never had a chance to struggle, to acquire job skills, to build up a work history. Most remain as helpless as children. They are enslaved to a system created by our own government to (cough) “help” them.
The problem is too many Americans no longer want to struggle. If we hit a bad patch or make a bad decision, we do not look to ourselves, our family, or our church to help us recover. We look to the government. The government fixes our problem with “free” food, “free” housing, “free” medical care, etc. We become dependent on these entitlements and less inclined to fix our own problems so we no longer need the entitlements. Instead, we kick back in our chairs and actively conspire to keep those handouts coming. Have another baby? Claim a disability? Riot in the streets? What will it take?
We no longer want to deal with the hard, character-building experiences the pioneers did. In fact, we no longer know how. As a result, we’ve become a nation of soft whining pansies with our hand perpetually out.
What would Laura say?
As endless members of our older generation are happy to point out, struggles build character. Struggles teach lessons. Struggles show us what we did wrong and what we can do in the future to correct our course. So you’re struggling? Big freaking deal. That’s the history of humanity, folks. Things worth having are worth struggling for. Struggling means people keep their dignity and pride intact. Struggling, hard though it may be, is still forward movement.
But if the government takes away the struggles, no lessons are learned. People will make the same mistakes over and over again because there are no consequences to those mistakes. Instead the “mistakes” become a way of life because, hey, they work.
In Wayne Allyn Root’s sobering essay “Why the Greatest Depression of All Time Has Begun,” he explains why a future economic crash would be endlessly worse than the Great Depression. “In 1929 children had hope for the future. Today they are hopeless, helpless and clueless – an entire generation that only knows drugs, gangs, rappers, government handouts, teen pregnancy – and it goes downhill from there.”
Our only hope to regain our pride, our self-worth and our pioneer spirit is to roundly reject any and all government entitlements.