Columnist and economist Walter Williams often hits the nail squarely on the head. The following excerpt comes from a column that does just that:
Dependency on government
Walter E. Williams
July 6, 2005
William Beach has just written a report for the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation titled "The 2005 Index of Dependency." Between 1962 and today, American dependence on government has more than doubled and shows little sign of abatement. The growth areas of dependency examined in the report are: welfare and medical care, housing, retirement income, education, and rural and agricultural services. The budgetary impact of dependency threatens perpetual budget deficits and high taxes, but to focus only on the budgetary impact is to trivialize the more devastating aspects of dependency.
Some of this has been commented upon by University of Texas professor Marvin Olasky in his 1992 book, "The Tragedy of American Compassion." One of the results of the growth of dependency on government is what Professor Olasky calls the charitable equivalent of Gresham's Law -- where bad charities drive out good charities.
Consider two options for a homeless family. A church or some other non-governmental entity might offer a homeless family shelter in return for the family's performance of chores such as cleaning the kitchen, mowing the lawn and washing windows. By contrast, a shelter financed by the government might provide that family shelter with no such obligation. The natural tendency for many homeless families would be to opt for the shelter where they have no obligation to give back. The Gresham's Law feature of this is the displacement of charity from the local and private level to the state, where all too often the state is unwilling or unable to distinguish between deserving and undeserving need.
There's another devastating feature of growing dependency on government. Professor Olasky says that prior to the 1960s, marriage was a more vital institution than today. It was a "compassionate anti-poverty device that offered adults affiliation and challenge as it provided two parents for each child." Before the '60s, the support for marriage was so strong that an unmarried woman who became pregnant usually would get married. Professor Olasky adds that 85 percent of teenage mothers in the 1950s were married by the time their babies were born. That's before we bought into the vision promoted by "experts" such as Johns Hopkins professor Andrew Cherlin, who said, "It has yet to be shown that the absence of a father was directly responsible for any of the supposed deficiencies of broken homes." The real issue, according to Professor Cherlin, "is not the lack of male presence but the lack of male income." That's a vision that says marriage and fatherhood can be replaced by a welfare check.