Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How the Nanny State Erodes Meaning

Dennis Prager makes some great points in this article, "The Bigger the Government, the Less You are Needed" in The National Review Online.
"Among the things on which Left and Right, religious and secular, can agree is that one of the few real needs that human beings have is to be needed.

When we are not needed, life feels pointless. The need to be needed is universal. The sexes may feel needed in different ways, but the depth of the need is the same.

Many women feel particularly alive when needed by their young children; many men feel worthy when needed by their family and/or their work. That is why most women navigate difficult emotional straits when their adult children leave home and assume independent lives; and why most men find it so crushing to lose their jobs — not necessarily because of the loss of income, but because of the loss of meaning that comes from no longer being needed.

Only when we are needed do we believe we have significance. Give a boy a special task — just about any task — and he blossoms. Give a girl a person — in fact, almost any living being — who depends on her, and she blossoms.

Of course, there are also myriad unhealthy ways of feeling needed. If an unwed teenage girl has a baby in order to feel needed, it is usually a bad thing for her, for the child, and for society. If a boy joins a gang to feel significant, it is bad for him and for society.

Though not consciously intended to, over time the political program of the Left destroys people’s ability to be needed, and therefore to be or feel significant.

As I regularly note, the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. One can add: The bigger the government, the less significant the citizen — especially men. One well-known example is the way welfare robbed so many men of significance when women and their children came to depend financially on the state.

And it goes further than that. In order to feel significant, men not only need to have others depend on them, they also need to depend on themselves, on their own work and initiative. But that, too, is destroyed as the state gets bigger. Fewer and fewer people work for themselves (which leads among other things to the disappearance of that quintessentially American ideal, the risk-taking entrepreneur).

It gets worse. As the power to fulfill needs shifts from the individual to the state, the state increasingly determines who is needed and who has significance.

That means, first of all, politicians. Obviously, whoever controls the ever expanding government has the most significance in a society.

- - - snip - - -

Indeed, over time, if the Left has its way and the state keeps expanding, you will also not decide what temperature to keep your house at or how to get to work. Nor will you be needed to educate your children (that is already the job of the state, and much of Europe now bans home schooling), or to raise and discipline your children (the state will ensure you are doing it correctly, and spanking is now illegal in 25 countries). Fathers will be needed primarily (and after divorce, only) as providers of child and spousal support.

In short, you will be needed essentially for one thing: to finance the one entity that is truly needed — the state."
Read the whole thing here.

The individual person is an asset to a state with a limited government. The more people the better. But in a socialist state, a person is just another mouth to feed. So the culture of death becomes thinkable from the statist perspective.

Why ordinary citizens accede to the institutionalization of the culture of death, however, is related to the main point of this article. It is because of a loss of meaning. Life without struggle is pointless. Life is a journey and when we think of life as a matter of being at rest, it loses its meaning. We are not at home in this world of sin and to pretend otherwise is to descend into incoherence and meaninglessness.


Gordon Hackman said...

I wish more people on the evangelical left understood what is being articualted here. There seems to be a simplistic mindset among many of today's left wing and younger evangelicals that since scripture calls us to help the poor, therefore we should all vote for big government programs that supposedly help the poor.

Craig Carter said...

Yes, the gap is between the acknowledged Scriptural command to help the poor and the idea that in our society the best way to do that is to grow the welfare state to an unsustainable size. It is a long way from "help the poor" to "feed Leviathan."