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Freedom's Nervous Sons

  • November 29, -0001
Every parent knows that if you continue to do everything for your children, they'll never grow up. They will discover that they don't have to clean up their room, in spite of all your threats; sooner or later you'll do it for them. Homework due tomorrow? No problem; mom and dad will work it through for them. Need some money? Why work when the folks are always willing to dole it out? Trouble at school? Dad'll sort it out; he always does.

Parents who thus continue to control and do for their children stifle their initiative- and risk-taking propensities and squelch their creative spirits. The same is true between governments and their citizens. When government is the ultimate overall safety net, people learn to like being taken care of, so that they don't have to take care of themselves. Yes, a certain amount of freedom gets lost in the bargain, but no one seems to mind too much, as long as everything is provided. The future we should fear is Brave New World, not 1984.

Philip Freneau (1752-1832), one of America's early popular poets, marveled at the vision, engineering, and hard work that went in to the making of the Erie Canal. No tyrant compelled this project, he observed; nor was any slave pressed to put his hand to the task. This wonder of the modern age was an example of "What Freedom's nervous sons can do."

I was talking last week with a friend who works in the health care industry - actually, he provides financing for hospital systems so that they can recapitalize with the latest technology. I asked him what he anticipated the biggest impact of the current health care reform initiative would be, and he answered without hesitating. "It will stifle innovation in the technological field."

Wherever government extends its reach into the private sectors of society, the energy that "Freedom's nervous sons" might invest in innovation very often dies on the vine. Why make a better automobile, improve our investment and banking services, or strive for better medical technologies when Uncle will prop us up and bail us out, come what may? Are we inching toward a day when "Freedom's nervous sons" will be relic of the past, replaced by "Uncle's fawning fools"?

T. M. Moore

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