Monday, November 10th, 2008 | Author:

This morning FEE highlighted an article written by Robert Higgs, published in May 1996. Titled “The Welfare State: Promising Protection in an Age of Anxiety,” it’s a nice little history of how we got where we are, starting like this [emphasis added]:

Anxiety, according to The Random House Dictionary, denotes “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by apprehension of danger or misfortune.” By this definition, the twentieth century qualifies as an age of anxiety for Americans.

There is irony in this condition, because in many respects we twentieth-century Americans have enjoyed much more security than our forebears. Our life expectancy has been longer, our work easier and more remunerative, our style of life more comfortable, stimulating, and unconstrained. Yet notwithstanding all objective indications that our lives are better than those of our ancestors, we have become incessant worriers.

Our predecessors dealt with their worries by relying on religious faith. For tangible assistance, they turned to kinfolk, neighbors, friends, co-religionists, and comrades in lodges, mutual benefit societies, ethnic associations, labor unions, and a vast assortment of other voluntary groups. Those who fell between the cracks of the voluntary societies received assistance from cities and counties, but governmentally supplied assistance was kept meager and its recipients stigmatized.

In the twentieth century, especially during the past sixty years, Americans have placed their faith in government, increasingly in the federal government. Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed the presidency in 1933, voluntary relief has taken a back seat to government assistance. Eventually, hardly any source of distress remained unattended by a government program. Old age, unemployment, illness, poverty, physical disability, loss of spousal support, child-rearing need, workplace injury, consumer misfortune, foolish investment, borrowing blunder, traffic accident, environmental hazard, loss from flood, fire, or hurricane—all became subject to government succor.

Perhaps it’s time to put our faith in the only One who can be trusted.

Jesus said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
and everyone who lives and believes in Me
will never die. Do you believe this?”

(John 11:25-26)

Category: welfare state
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