I was struck yesterday by a reader’s comment on David Brooks’ recent column. Self-identified “liberal” Elizabeth Fuller of Peterborough, NH gave a defense of leftist politics that was articulate, if not persuasive. Among other things, she said:
We love government not because it is always good, but because it is our only hope.
Really? Government is the only thing we have to hope in? Not our churches, our families, our neighbors, our work colleagues, our clubs and associations, ourselves? No, just government.
Fuller’s point is basically that life is hard and unfair for many hard-working people, and government can help. Fair enough. But what she doesn’t seem to get is that the more government steps in to fulfill the traditions of churches, families, neighbors, colleagues, clubs and associations, the less people feel a moral obligation to others, the less they have the ability to help others because of high taxes, and the less they feel a personal responsibility to provide for themselves. She and many other leftists see government providing hope. I see the heavy boots of government stamping out hope, as well as faith and charity and the social bonds that connect people together and lead them to depend upon themselves and upon one another.
I was told a story a few years ago about a situation in Finland where a religious group was doing a service project that involved cleaning up some public space to make it more usable and attractive. Some local citizens were angered because they felt that this volunteer effort might take away jobs from government workers.
Most libertarians (except for the anarchist whack-jobs) see a vital and necessary role for a strong but limited government. We don’t hate government. We just hate it when government stomps out our humanity.