Who Shall Decide?
AUGUST 01, 1977 by JOHN C. SPARKS
Mr. Sparks, now Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Foundation for Economic Education, is an executive of an
There’s a difference between looking to another for enlightenment, and letting him make your decisions for you. At least, I think that is the message of the book, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! by psychotherapist Sheldon B. Kopp) Never abdicate to a mentor the responsibility to make your decisions or solve your problems.
Shouldering responsibility for self and family is no easy task. It may seem more comfortable to lean on others or blame them for one’s own shortcomings. But the road to maturity and peace of mind is through self-responsibility. Dr. Kopp’s advice is to kill the temptation to lean on others—that the better path to mental health is for each person to rely upon the resources within himself.
To face up to this matter realistically today is to find the road practically blocked by a giant decision maker—namely, big government. And the more decisions it makes for us, the more evident is our tendency to turn to it with our problems. So, let’s examine some of the decisions or solutions government has rendered for us.
How, for example, has government relieved each of us of the responsibility to save and provide for his own old age? It is now being revealed that the security blanket of Social Security is not based on savings at all. The payroll deductions withheld from you and matched by your employer have all been spent, just as any other tax collected by government. Your security rests upon the willingness of younger taxpayers to cover your needs—a prospect dimmed by accelerating inflation and increasing longevity.
This is not your fault, you say. The government simply assumed your responsibility without asking you, or so it seems. What could you, just one person, do about it when the law was under consideration? Chances are that you would have then and would now join your neighbors and welcome such an opportunity to unbuckle burdens and hand them over to government. It’s easy to blame "the neighbors" for the way Social Security has gone. But the hard fact remains that responsibility—or the lack of it—is a personal matter.
Or, consider how government has relieved us of responsibility for "Johnny’s" education, with our growing complaint to the neighbors that "Johnny can’t read." When will we admit to ourselves that a child’s education is a private, personal, parental responsibility—you responsible for your child, I for mine?
Our decision-making government is now "volunteering" to solve our energy crises, heat our homes, fuel our industries. Cleverly concealed is the role it played in creating such problems, with its regulation and control of prices and production of gas, oil, coal, electricity. Set a ceiling price of $25 for mink coats, and there will be none produced for sale. Yet this is the sort of decision we may expect the government to make for us if we ask it to assume responsibility for our energy problems. The result: total conservation—no energy available to use.
A government official proposed recently a law to hold hospital charges to a certain level. This should appeal to patients only if they seek deteriorating hospital service and care. The proposal calls to mind government entry some years ago into decisions concerning medical drugs—matters long handled quite satisfactorily and voluntarily among drug manufacturers, doctors, and patients. What is the result of the decisions by government? The
We see in the field of transportation the astounding damage government can do when it takes charge for us. It has wrecked almost every railroad in the country, making it hazardous to travel or ship by rail. But all for our own good, understand! One shudders to think what full government control of air transport could achieve. The horse and wagon may indeed be the wave of the future.
Other examples of the failure of government planning abound, but let one more suffice here: welfare for low-income families. Before this became government’s responsibility, families climbed out of poverty and stood proudly on their determination and action to improve their situation. Government welfare condemns its recipients to remain poor and helpless into the third and fourth generation—at least. Who knows how much longer?
For an improved state of mind—indeed for the health of the nation—let us kill the temptation to yield to some master those decisions we ought to make for ourselves.
1(Science and Behavior Books, 1972; Bantam Books, 1976.)