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Taking the rough road

Submitted by on 04.01.2013 – 10:05 pm

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one in four Americans who are eligible for food stamps do not sign up for the program. The reason for this: they are embarrassed to be seen in need.

This is a good thing.

Allow me to clarify. It is not good that there are currently 47,672,299 Americans participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to the USDA. Americans are deeply in need and this is stark proof of that horrible fact.

What is pleasing is the fact that there are many eligible for programs like SNAP who do not want to participate. This means they are uncomfortable in their neediness, hopefully meaning they will seek ways to escape such discomfort, such as working harder to keep from becoming dependent of government welfare — even if it hurts.

This is one of the best ways to reduce poverty or neediness. We must play on their discomfort. People do not become motivated when they are made comfortable.

Benjamin Franklin expressed this idea well. “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means,” Franklin said. “I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out.”

Franklin then explained, “In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

Classical Scholar Edith Hamilton wrote similarly, showing how dependence on and comfort from government needs to be avoided.

“Now instead of men giving to the state the state was to give to them,” Hamilton wrote. “What (the Athenians) wanted was a government which would provide a comfortable life for them… Athens had reached the point of rejecting independence, and the freedom she now wanted was freedom from responsibility. There could be only one result…If men insisted on being free from the burden of life that was self-dependent and also responsible for the common good, they would cease to be free at all.”

Franklin and Hamilton hit the nail on the head. Not only do the poor become poorer via public provisions, but so does the rest of society — sucked into the bottomless pit of taxes, debt and need in the name of comfort and humanitarianism. When government provides, responsibility is left in the dust along with our freedom. Difficult as it may seem to do so, government needs to remove its hand and allow citizens to provide for themselves.

In turn, Americans need to continue to veer from such dependency on our government and support those who resist government assistance.

Poverty and neediness happen, and could very well happen to you or me, but we cannot exchange our freedoms for any form of comfort or security. Americans need to take the rough road, as they have in the past.

Andrew Jenson 

can be reached at 

arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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