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The Element of Seduction

  • November 29, -0001
Are Americans being seduced by government to acquiesce in the increasing centralization of power? Roger Kimball fears it may be so. Writing in The New Criterion (January 2010) he insists, following Hayek, that government's tendency to usurp responsibility from citizens becomes a form of seduction, enticing Americans to prefer an existence of being provided for over taking responsibility for their lives.

This shift of responsibility from individuals, families, churches, and communities to federal bureaucrats takes place slowly. Consider American education, for example. Back in 1830, when America consisted of a few million people in less than half the states, every voting precinct had a school board, whose purpose was to represent the interests of the parents in their precinct to train their children for responsible living, That meant somewhere around 100,000 school boards, each making separate decisions about such things as curricula, shools, and textbooks. Today there are only something like 16,000 school boards in America, whose purpose is to implement policies and programs decided by teachers' unions and federal and state bureaucrats, with only marginal input from parents.

The same has occurred with the matter of retirement. Whereas families, in the past, took care of their own, with the aid of churches and other local societies, that role has been shifted to the federal government through social security and Medicare - neither of which is sufficiently funded.

But Americans have been happy to be relieved of the duty of educating their children and caring for their aging parents. When government offers to pick up the tab and collect the revenues from someone other than us, we seem all too happy to let things happen. After all, we'll be old one day, too.

Kimball writes, "The element of seduction that is so central to this sort of managerial despotism is one the things that makes it so hard to resist." We simply don't have the spine to say, "Thanks, but I'll handle it myself." The real issue in the growth of big government - and all the burden of debt, taxes, and control that accompanies it - is not so much one of bureaucratic and political grasping for power as it is one of the character of the electorate. Government is sapping the will of the electorate, who are simply unwilling to resist or decline whatever perk Washington waves before them.

The need of the hour is not for small government. The need of the hour is big character. Before the element of seduction turns us all into rats at the federal Skinner bar, we need something to renew and fortify the character of the American electorate. And this is not a job for political parties. The renewal of character must come from the churches and, ultimately, from the Lord. But the present gospel, preached in so many churches, of forgiveness and eternal life will not renew character, not even in the pews. Only a Gospel that honors an exalted King and seeks His Kingdom, leading to lives of self-denial and sacrifical service, will provide the renewal we seek.

Pray, friends, for revival of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

T. M. Moore

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