First came the New Deal, then the Great Society, and now comes President Obama's special brand of interventionalist tactics with redistributive aims. When it suits him, the president wants the power to take from some and give to others. But how do you keep the public from correctly identifying this as stealing? You do as his predecessors did: You call it charity.
Thomas Jefferson wrote,
To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.
Adding to that, James Madison said succinctly, "Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government."
Today, the idea that it is wrong for the government to take in taxes and spend in "charity" would be considered ludicrous. It is generally accepted that government is there to "help others," and not only ourselves, but foreign nations and aliens in our midst. America is a country of great generosity. Liberal progressives harness that generosity to advance socialism. They accomplish this by saying how important it is to help others, and politicians are unwilling to oppose bills proposed and presented under this rubric of charity.
There have been many arguments under which government has expanded its powers, as described by Mark Levin in his book Liberty & Tyranny, but the most pernicious is this one: that government serves as a charitable organization -- first, because this argument can be leveraged for ever more spending, as the "poor" are always with us (i.e., some people are ambitious producers, and some prefer to be idle), and second, because it can metamorphose into brand new spending obligations growing as offshoots from the root argument.
The most recent offshoot is the idea that certain businesses are too big to fail. Such businesses are deemed "necessary" to protect citizens from hardship. Thus, the government acts charitably to prop up a business whose failure would have a broad negative impact on unsuspecting and unprepared Americans.
Another offshoot is that people should have a right to certain goods and services, such as, most recently, health care.
This ever-expanding role of government as a charitable giver obscures the fundamental truth that in order to give, government must first take. But with a "right" to health care, it is more perilous than that. Giving someone a "right" to a service provided by another indentures the other. The freedom to purchase is transmuted into an obligation to provide.
Does that sound far-fetched? It isn't. In fact, there is a clear precedent. The government has a constitutional obligation to protect the public. Therefore, to make for such public defense, the government may levy taxes and enact the draft, i.e. compel the individual to fight and die for his country. If the government has the obligation to provide health care, then similarly, it is empowered to levy taxes and require individuals to provide health care services. To effect this transaction, government must control both receiver and giver.
President Obama accomplishes such control via obtaining an expanded power to write new rules. The unrestricted power to write rules is control. Control of services or production is ownership. Ownership of production is socialism.
Both political parties have been guilty of this slide toward socialism. A key precedent-setting moment occurred (a government-as-charity offshoot took root) when former President Bush allowed TARP dollars to be given to the auto companies. The government could actually take tax money to run a business from individuals who didn't choose to patronize that business. A Toyota driver pays taxes to...General Motors. President Obama pounced on the opportunity, and this offshoot took further hold with Stimulus I and II.
Rather than expand our rights, these events produce a loss to our freedom of association, to the fruits of our labor, to our control over property, and to our ability to make choices for ourselves.
There is another thing lost, and that is the goodwill engendered by free commerce, which government coercion will inevitably crush. Refusing to buy something because it is too expensive, or because it is not a good value, is a foundational market concept and a natural right. The "pursuit of happiness" flows from this right. You may pursue what makes you happier. The freedom to make this choice is what levers pressure upon the market to either improve a product or service's value, lower its price, or both.
If, for example, insurance companies are not subjected to this same pressure, then naturally the effect will be a reduced value at a higher price. If government may coerce a purchase, the unintended consequence shall be the loss of customer-oriented service. The freedom to walk away and the availability of an alternative source forces the seller to build relationships of goodwill with prospective buyers, as their intent is to create repeat customers, knowing that repeat business is an absolute necessity for the success and sustainability of an enterprise. Such businesses shall be stale, impersonal, and colorless, like the state offices where one picks up an unemployment check. For those who work there, business shall be reduced to mere process, where being busy is not a necessary and good thing.
Beware: In today's America, socialism's offshoots are well-rooted and about to come to full, poisonous bloom. As always, misery shall soon follow.