The Error of Depending on Government—Scott I. R. Johnston

Gene Balfour’s article in the last news letter about the flooding that took place this spring in Minden was meant to address an outsider’s comment of perceived mean spirit shown by libertarians. It reminds me of a common phrase that existed before the collapse of the former Soviet Union: the government only fixes problems that the government creates.

Most of us have forgotten that a hundred years ago, if someone wanted to build a house on the shores of the lake, they might first have asked advise from an old timer: is this a good place to build a house? They would likely be told no, that that is a flood plain. Today’s government is more likely to sell that person a building permit with the altruistic idea that it would create jobs and growth in the community and create future tax revenue for the municipality. Furthermore, since the lake levels are well controlled by government agencies there will be no problems with flooding.

Naive government intervention usually ends in disaster, followed by generalized complaints about naive government intervention, and when it finally gains general acceptance, it ends in more disaster. Not doing something, allowing people to figure things out on their own, does not appear to have been part of government’s mission for many decades now.

Like most things in life, perceptions are based on what an individual’s expectations are. People who have grown up in a culture used to doing things for themselves and for others without thinking, just getting things done without reflecting on the community value that is being created, as described by Mr. Balfour when the Mennonite neighbours helped, have a stronger community then when government assumes the role of provider of help.

When the government “helps” the cultural fabric of the community unwinds and expectations change with larger numbers of people feeling that they don’t want to, don’t have to and don’t care to do for themselves or others any longer. It becomes for them, not such a great leap to believe that the government should be doing everything for everyone. When a group, such as libertarian minded people, states that government can’t survive economically and culturally doing everything for everyone forever, it’s not surprising that many people say all sorts of things that make little sense; some even act and talk like children, calling us mean spirited, sometimes worse.