Dependence vs Liberty

I think Scott hit the nail on the head when he talked about the paradox of people distrusting the government while demanding more government services. It is natural that we chafe against intrusive authority whether that intrusion is warranted or not. It is also natural that we turn toward our source of temporal support to fill our needs and wants, especially when we rely on a single source of support. Generally speaking, greater dependence warrants greater intrusion on the part of the supplier.

The paradox here is that individual liberty cannot thrive without personal independence. If we ever hope to be free of government intrusions – and the possibility (probability) that they will be exploited – we must begin to look outside of government for the solutions to the challenges that we face. If I fear that I will get laid off and that I can’t afford that, I will not want to end the government welfare programs. If I have enough savings, or I trust friends and family to help me out in the event that I lose my job, then I am more likely to want those programs terminated so that I keep more of my own money to increase my financial independence. The same holds true for other government programs as well as non-governmental dependence.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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8 Responses to Dependence vs Liberty

  1. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a book worth checking out: Dependent on D.C., by Charlotte Twight.

  2. David says:

    I’ll check it out. I notice that the Amazon list of “people who bought this book also bought . . .” includes 2 or three other books that have been recommended to me (some of which I’ve already read).

  3. Mark Hansen says:

    I’m in a situation that brings an interesting perspective to this debate, one that is usually lost on fiscal conservatives. I have a “special needs” child. He has cerebral palsy and cystic fibrosis. His medicines, formulas and services cost on the order of 12 to 15 THOUSAND DOLLARS a month. My son depends for his very life on the existence of this “governmental intrusion”.

    It’s not a question of convenience, nor a judgement of my work ethic. It’s not a simple debate of whether or not it’s good or evil for the government to help. If the government did not help, my family (even extended family) would not be able to provide the necessary funds, and he would not live.

    It’s true that there are many who game the system, and take advantage. There are those, however, that need the help. And unfortunately, many fiscal conservatives are currently and actively working to cut Jacob’s funding, making me, personally, very frightened.


  4. David says:


    Thanks for sharing. I think I have made it clear that I am fiscally conservative, but I think you raise a good point that we (FC’s) need to keep in mind. I had not considered a situation such as yours, but all other situations I have considered still leave me confident that we would do better to err on the side of being too conservative fiscally (as far as government is concerned anyway) than not conservative enough.

    I’m sorry if that sounds heartless, it isn’t meant to be, and I think that the principles of fiscal conservatism can successfully be implemented while still meeting the needs of those extreme situations such as yours.

    Again, thanks for sharing. We need people, such as yourself, to participate in these debates so that those who promote this kind of fiscal conservatism cannot forget that there are situations where government assistance (or some other form of public assistance) is warranted. That being said, the discussion must be held so long as our current programs far overstep the proper bounds of assistance, such as they do now (speaking generally and without reference to your specific case).

  5. Jason Black says:


    I can’t leave my comment on Sunset for Subsidies without also responding to your reflections. I sincerely feel for your family and others like yours that have huge medical or other costs that are unreasonable to be met by individuals. That said, I also believe that government must not be involved in “helping” in these cases. I’ll not delve into why I believe that – other comments I’ve made on this blog should make that clear.

    What I would say instead is what I believe should be done for those who are unfortunate enough to be in a situation similar to yours. I think most Americans would agree that we should, as a society, care for the needy and the poor. But that support and help should be given voluntarily, rather than forced from people against their wills. There are literally thousands of charitable organizations, garnering their support from the free-will donations of private citizens, dedicated to these types of causes. They work very hard, and they stretch every dollar to make sure that as many as possible get the best care that can be provided. Government, on the other hand, has no interest in minimizing administrative and other non-charitable costs, so the money “earmarked” for such social welfare programs is laid out very thin for actual benefits. Government has never been able to provide charitable support better or more efficiently than private organizations. The only advantage of government is that they can force people to pay in, where charities rely on the willingness of citizens to put their money where their mouth is.

    If social welfare programs provided at taxpayer expense were to disappear, I truly believe that those dependent upon the government for the financial needs of their families would find themselves as well off, if not better off, than they find themselves now. I’m not saying that every returned tax dollar would be turned to charity, or even that most would (though I do believe that many people who are in favor of supporting the needy don’t feel inclined to do so because they suppose that government will take care of that for them). I’m suggesting that the high efficiency charities would provide better support for less money, and that costs overall would drop, in part, due to the government’s removal from the process (the concept of increased health care costs being, in large part, caused by government intervention is the subject for another post).

    In short, government should get out of social welfare altogether. Me and David, and millions of other private citizens, companies and charities will band together to make sure your son’s needs are met.

  6. David says:


    Thanks for articulating your position more clearly that I would have. I would say that any nuances of difference in my opinion are not worth discussion. In short, I think that government care is not the only option or the best option to help those in need.

  7. Mark Hansen says:

    It is true that charities are more efficient, and they stretch their dollars more. They have to. They have access to fewer dollars in the first place.

    A good friend of mine (who grew up in Bolivia) once commented that he admired America because in Bolivia someone like Jacob would be left to his family, and would probably have ended up as a street beggar.

    We have done some private fundraising, and our families have helped considerably. My experience in that fundraising has shown me that although we might be able to raise a bit of money for a lift, or a wheelchair van, or some other immediate need, the chance that we could get thousands of dollars on a monthly basis is slim.

    Forgive my cynicism, but in my mind and experience, to say that private charitable contributions would step up and carry the load is like throwing us to the wolves.


  8. David says:

    I’m sorry (but not totally surprised) that your experience with private charities has been poor. Obviously (and I have never argued otherwise) things would need to change. On the other hand, I am quite certain that the church welfare system could and would take care of you if the government resources were not available.

    Call me idealistic (or naive) but I truly believe that.

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