Dependence Day: a modest proposal

William Shipman Contributor
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America needs a national holiday to celebrate our greatest creation and the embodiment of all things we choose to do together; the government. Dependence on it has provided us a better life, greater prosperity, and has saved us from the vicissitudes of free choice and liberty. This day of celebration shall be called Dependence Day, and will be honored each April 15th.

There once was a time when we had to care for ourselves, to be personally responsible, to incur the risks of freedom, to suffer the consequences of free choices taken in a society with individual liberty. But these times were no more than a rough and tumble frontier. Now more sophisticated, we understand that we are all better served if we give up our individual desires, and commit to the greater good of the collective. For it is only through shared sacrifice that we prosper. Our sharing must be directed by the government which would redistribute it in a proper and equitable manner.

Our needs are complex and many. Individuals lack the knowledge and the wherewithal to provide for them. The collective is better suited to meet these needs. It is simple logic: a large group can provide for the individual better than the individual can for himself.

Retirement is one such thing that’s too important to leave up to the individual. Social Security was a good start, but it must be modernized to achieve greater dependency.  We should follow the lead of Argentina, and give up our 401(k) and IRA plan assets to the government in return for the government providing all of our retirement income. This expanded program would guarantee the same income irrespective of individual contributions. Such equality of outcome would free us from the envy caused by some doing better than others.

Our health is important, but most individuals don’t have the knowledge to make the correct decisions, or the resources to meet the unforeseen. Our government knew this when it established Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare. With the government stipulating what services and procedures we get, we are ensured of first-rate care, at the lowest price, and in a timely fashion. And with more doctors working for the government, and subject to its benevolent rules, everyone will get not just what the doctor ordered, but what the government ordered too. This is important progress.

One of the most important rights our children have is a quality education. But given that our country is comprised of unsophisticated rural towns and sophisticated urban cities, education is not uniform. The Department of Education and teachers unions, with their vast knowledge on how best to teach all children, appropriately set the rules on what each child must learn. Our dependence on the DOE is critical to the future of our young, to the future of our country. Education is too important to be left to parents.

Even though government has sheltered us from many of the world’s risks and inequalities, too many people are poor and too many people are rich. Our government has done a good job in leveling the playing field, but more should be done. The rich should be required to contribute their excess income and wealth to the poor so that no one suffers. Then all of us would be the same. No one’s income would be above or below average; a worthy goal, indeed.

Some say that dependency is too costly, and they cite the national debt to support their claim. But they are misguided. The national debt is not caused by too much spending but by not enough taxes. Taxes should be raised to pay down the debt, and provide for more goods and services.  This new spending will lift economic growth, create new jobs, and further ensure that we will be more dependent on the government.

Unfortunately, there are some who still argue that the individual should be personally responsible, free to choose, and live with the benefits and burdens of liberty. But these views are old-fashioned, and belie history. Over the last 80 years the Dependency Index — federal government expenditures as a percent of GDP — has increased more than tenfold. This is progress, but we can do more if we work in a bipartisan way. The first step is reminding the American people from whence cometh their salvation, and a great way to do that is with a national holiday.

William G. Shipman is co-author of Promises to Keep: Saving Social Security’s Dream and co-chairman of the Cato Institute Project on Social Security Choice