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Recently I got together with a friend I hadn’t seen in years (I’ll call her Mary). It was very pleasant, catching up on each others’ lives. Among other things, I told Mary about our teenage daughter’s plans to attend nanny school next year, once she graduates from our homeschool. The tuition for the school is very reasonable, I told Mary, and as a credential nanny school graduate, our daughter’s job prospects would be excellent.

Mary leaned forward. “You know, you could get a government grant and use that money to send your daughter to school.”

I lifted my eyebrows. “But that’s government money. We don’t take government money.”

My friend was shocked at my lack of interest. “But it’s free money!” she protested.

“No it’s NOT free money,” I said. “It comes out of everyone’s taxes. Why should you or anyone else have to pay for my daughter’s education? At the very worst, we’d take out student loans, but we’ll try to avoid that, too.”

“But student loans have to be paid back.”

“Yes, I know.”

“But a grant doesn’t have to be paid back. It’s free.”

“It’s NOT free. It’s someone else’s taxpayer money. We won’t do it.”

“But you’re low-enough income that I’m sure you’d qualify.”

“I’m sure you’re right, but we won’t take any government money.”

“The amount of money it would cost to send your daughter to nanny school, spread out per person over the whole country, is just a drop in the bucket. No one will even notice.”

“Maybe THEY won’t, but WE will. That’s just the way we are. We won’t take government money.” Mentally I was shaking my head, thinking, You just don’t get it.

Unwilling to let the conversation delve into the unpleasant, we dropped the subject. But I know Mary was genuinely baffled at my hostility toward “free” government money.

And here’s the clincher: Mary is not progressive. She’s reasonably conservative – yet she saw nothing wrong with taking “free” government money.

Some people have a “stick it to ‘em” mentality when it comes to government goodies. Some “occupy” types are out to get the rich by forcing them to fund the poor. But Mary isn’t like that. She works hard and leads a responsible lifestyle. But she just wasn’t thinking through the broader implications of her suggestion.

And I believe this, more than anything else, is what I found most disturbing about my conversation with Mary. And it’s not just Mary – many people are the same way. They just don’t see the broader ramifications of taking “free” government money. To them, it’s free. It somehow materializes out of thin air or grows on trees. It doesn’t harm anyone to take it. Mary’s suggestion wasn’t born out of an “occupy” mentality – she just wasn’t thinking.

The problem with the thoughtless acceptance of government money is it can become a habit. If we take money for our daughter’s education, why shouldn’t we take money to buy a car? Or a house? Or how about “free” health care?

Where does the “free” end? As generations of welfare recipients can testify, it doesn’t.

Freebies destroy motivation. If we could fall back upon “free” government money to fund our daughter’s plans, we would not develop the discipline to save that money ourselves. Or our daughter would never learn to work and save for her education. Or we would miss out on the opportunity to budget and penny-pinch to save up the money.

In short, the exercise of funding our family’s plans and projects is beneficial to us. “Free” money would deprive us of the opportunity to creatively apply ourselves to a solution. Instead, it would force everyone else (via taxes) to be responsible for our decisions.

And worse, it would give our daughter the precedent that “free” government money is not only OK, it’s expected. Even – drum roll, please – a “right.”

I’m strongly of the opinion that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So what’s the catch? What’s the drawback to this “free” money?

On the surface, perhaps, nothing. My daughter might indeed qualify for her “free” education. But what will that teach her? It will teach her to be a taker, not an earner. It would teach her that she’s “entitled” to something that other people (taxpayers) have no choice but to give her, simply because her parents aren’t rich. It would teach her that if she plays the victim card, she can get something for nothing.

No thanks. I like to think we raised her better than that.

Look, if it was a matter of life or death for our children, we would accept government money. We’d be ashamed to do so; but as my husband puts it, we can eat shame for our child’s life. But continuing education is not a life or death situation. And if my husband and I want to set the example for our girls that independence, resourcefulness and personal responsibility are the goals they should strive for as adults, we sure as heck aren’t going to achieve that by taking “free” this and “free” that.

Slavery in American history meant people were captured on foreign shores, transported like animals, and forced to work away their life for someone else’s gain. We had a very bloody war, in part, to end this abomination.

But there’s another way to become a slave. You can sell yourself. You can sell your soul to the government in exchange for freebies. You can sell your motivation, your work ethic, your personal responsibility, your dignity, even your patriotism. All in the name of free stuff.

You can bleed America dry one drop here and one drop there, and justify it by saying it’s just a drop in the bucket and no one will ever notice. Who cares if we apply for taxpayer money? After all … it’s FREE.

Generations of Americans have been poisoned with the notion that the government “owes” them – all because of freebies.

But just remember this: You get what you pay for. And if you’re not paying for it, you just don’t get it.

 

 

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