Big government equals small citizens
In this election year, we have two distinct choices: to revert back to more limited government, or to continue to expand government. I believe that continuing to expand government is not only unaffordable and unsustainable, it has a corrosive effect on our identity as citizens: It makes us smaller.
Consider this advice from an old sage: “Everyone should have two pockets, each containing a slip of paper. On one should be written: ‘The world was created for me.’ And on the other: ‘I am but a humble servant to the world.’ The secret of living comes from knowing when to reach into each pocket.”
As Americans, we honor historical figures who’ve instinctively known when to grasp which paper – leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King were humble, hard-working and self-sacrificing servants yet valiant leaders; studious learners yet exhortative coaches; consensus builders yet futuristic visionaries. Though forever grateful for their bounty, they personified a yearning for “a more perfect Union” and a dedication to realizing their potential. They claimed responsibility for their failures and didn’t try to assign blame to others. They embodied character.
Such character is in short supply these days. Could it be that too many reach only for the paper “The world was created for me,” and not for the other?
Recently I saw a bumper sticker, a more contemporary form of wisdom, which was clarifying: “The Bigger the Government, the Smaller the Citizen.” As America has moved away from the principles upon which we were founded (limited government, liberty, and the American work ethic), our citizens have become less independent, less self-reliant and more expectant. Our political leaders, interested mainly in their self-preservation, indulge us in this unhealthy trend by feeding our unrealistic expectations, like parents who don’t set boundaries for their children. It is this sense of entitlement that is undermining our economic security and propelling the United States on a crash course toward “Greek Tragedy.”
As any parent knows, a sense of entitlement is toxic. An entitlement mentality undermines initiative and gratitude and breeds self-centeredness, unhappiness and anger. We implore our children to use the magic words “please” and “thank you” not only because it is gracious, but because we know that gratitude fosters happiness while ingratitude fosters victimization and resentment when people do not get what they think they deserve.
If we won’t tolerate a sense of entitlement in our children, why should we accept it in our fellow citizens? As a society, we would do well to follow President Kennedy’s appeal to Americans, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” As voters, we would do well to elect leaders who, like Kennedy, encourage us to reach more for the paper, “I am but a humble servant to the world.”