Too Much Government by Roger Graves

Robert Heinlein was a science fiction author who published for almost fifty years from 1939 to his death in 1988. His 1961 book “Stranger in a Strange Land” took on an iconic value for the social and sexual revolution that began in the 1960’s. Surprisingly, Heinlein himself was a hard-headed individualist who regarded big government as one of the greatest threats to civilization. As he said, “in a mature society, ‘civil servant’ is semantically equal to ‘civil master’”. Or as another famous American, Ronald Reagan said, “government isn’t the solution, government is the problem”.

I doubt that Reagan mean by this that we shouldn’t have any government at all. What Reagan almost certainly meant is that government has a way of multiplying and growing, as if it were a living thing, quite without regard to any benefit to the governed. In fact, government frequently harms rather than benefits the governed. Anyone who doubts this should take a look at the oceans of regulations that any farmer or business owner has to navigate through to make a living.

We all complain about government, and yet somehow, we manage to live with it. We’re rather like the frogs in the pot of boiling water. If you drop frogs into boiling water they will immediately jump out again, but if you put them into a pot of cold water and then slowly heat it until it boils, the frogs will stay where they are until they die. If you had suddenly imposed on the Canada of a hundred years ago all the governmental rules and regulations we have today, there would have been bloody revolution. Yet because big government has gradually crept up on us, we accept it as normal. No doubt in a generation or two you will wake up one morning and realize with dismay that you have forgotten to renew your breathing permit for the month.

The purpose of government is, or rather should be, to do those things that we as individuals cannot do for ourselves. Policing, defense, foreign affairs come to mind in this regard. But government seems to have gone well beyond this and nowadays regards itself as being responsible for everything we do from the cradle to the grave.

The problem with this is that the more things government does for us, the more we seem to lose the ability to do anything for ourselves. An extreme example of this is the way successive governments have treated our native Indian population, or as they like to be known nowadays, our First Nations. Quite simply, our governments have destroyed the Indian culture without putting anything in its place.

What I mean by culture is simply how we live our everyday lives. I have a friend of Scottish ancestry who, on special occasions, dons a kilt and plays the bagpipes. However, this isn’t so much his culture as a hobby derived from his ancestors’ culture. His culture is that he goes to Timmies on his way to work for a coffee, rather than, say, to a sidewalk café for a shot of brandy. His culture is that he goes to a hockey match rather than, say, a bullfight. His culture is that he goes to work every day to support his family rather than sitting under a tree watching his wives do the work (and his culture is that he only has one wife anyway). His is the culture of a typical Canadian and, with minor differences, is much the same as that of a typical American or European.

What is the corresponding Indian culture in Canada today? How does a typical Indian live? I am going to restrict this to Indians on reservations, because off-reservation Indians, by and large, share our Canadian culture. The salient fact about reservation dwellers is that many, and possibly most of them, don’t have jobs. You can easily find families on reservations in which not a single member, no matter how far back you go, has ever held down a permanent job, nor do they support themselves nowadays to any great extent by hunting or fishing. The culture of these Indians can be summed up in one phrase – welfare dependency.

Indian culture, by and large, does not include the concept of working for a living, or indeed of doing anything that they do not feel like doing. The media often make a great to-do about the high unemployment rates on Indian reservations, and while it is true that there aren’t many job opportunities, neither is there much necessity to work. If you live rent free, receive generous welfare allowances from the government and buy everything tax free, who needs to work? There are, of course, many honourable exceptions to this, where an entrepreneurial spirit has sprung up on reservations. I don’t particularly care whether they make their money by operating casinos or smuggling cigarettes, at least they are creating wealth-generating employment. But these tend to be the exceptions. Too many reservations are employment-free zones.

Indians obviously didn’t live like this before the Europeans came. They did whatever was necessary to survive and thrive, and if they didn’t they starved, froze to death, or otherwise had a pretty short and miserable existence. But with the various treaties and agreements made with the Europeans, this necessity largely disappeared. Life became relatively easy for them – too easy, in fact. The white man has failed the Indians by creating for them a culture of futile idleness.

One of Robert Heinlein’s better-known quotations was “Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy”. Looking at how we have ruined the lives of Indians by making their lives too easy, aren’t we in danger of doing the same to ourselves?

Big government is in danger of doing to us what we have done to our First Nations – creating a culture of dependency where we expect government to do everything for us, and in return have our lives hedged around by ever higher taxes and ever more rules, regulations and restrictions. It seeks to make dependent children of us, taking away more and more responsibility for our own lives and replacing it with an all-enveloping nanny state. If this is what you want, then fine, but otherwise think carefully about who and what you are voting for at the next election.