Opinion

The Delusion That’s Bankrupting America

STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages

Alan Keyes Former Assistant Secretary of State

We should see the Trump budget as a cultural as well as fiscal initiative.

It attempts to restore fiscal sanity while restoring individual freedom and personal responsibility to our culture. (Starr Parker, Trump Budget fixes our Broken Culture)

I think the most disturbing thing the present partisan discussion of the Federal budget is that it’s predicated on a patently obvious lie.   As Starr Parker observes in the article quoted above, at present we are not dealing with Federal budget cuts.  At best, we’re dealing with cuts in the rate at which overall Federal spending increases.  So-called “budget cutters” (including Donald Trump) pretend they achieve that goal by proposing cuts here and there, affecting the activities of this or that agency or Department.  But these cuts are not expected, or ever intended to reduce Federal spending overall.

Implicitly, this understanding of the budget process leaves our nation wallowing toward bankruptcy, with the implied day of reckoning seemingly postponed by expedients and jerry-rigged projections of future results.  This is far from anything like what is needed actually to reduce the government’s spending and indebtedness.  For that result, we would have to look to the example of past generations, for instance, in the aftermath of America’s war for independence.  Put simply, they drew up a plan to discipline the government’s spending, curtail any increase in its debt, and increase inflows of revenue.  Then, in each budget cycle, they set aside a fixed portion of the surplus this discipline produced, and used it exclusively to reduce the government’s indebtedness.

Of course, such plans were implemented before the American people ran afoul of the delusions of the so-called “welfare state”.  Those were times when people didn’t just talk about “individual freedom” and “personal responsibility”, they, perforce, accepted the fact that living according to those concepts required self-discipline—i.e., the willingness to keep their behavior within boundaries of right they could not whimsically disregard.   This is reflected in the thinking expressed in America’s Declaration of Independence. It speaks of “unalienable rights”, with which all humanity is endowed by our Creator. This thought refers to necessary activities, inseparable from our existence as human beings, which we are bound to undertake in order to preserve our humanity.

Liberty, as it is listed among these God-endowed rights, retains the sense of freedom.  But by listing it among the rights with which God provisions humanity, the Declaration makes liberty a distinct species of freedom.  It involves doing what right requires, according to God’s prescription of right. That prescription distinguishes human beings from others of God’s creation. As part of that distinction, God endows us with a capacity for deliberate choice, along with the inclination (good conscience) to use it rightly.

The Declaration’s logic, in this respect, implies that, unless we rightly limit our use of freedom we cannot perpetuate our exercise of rights.  For there can be no exercise of rights when the premise of right (which is the standard of God that makes it right) is no longer observed.  In concrete terms, for example, do we not accept that it is right to preserve and perpetuate humanity?  But to do so requires that we undertake the different activities required to do so.  But, whereas it appears to us that other creatures have no choice but to respond to the imperatives of self-preservation, we humans have a choice.  We may accept or reject our natural programming, going so far even as to deny and reject the limitations that serve humanity, in order to pursue, instead, activities that satisfy our own passions and self-conceits.

In our day, this goes so far as to reject what even our empirical science verifies as the natural distinction between male and female.  Humanity conceives and perpetuates itself in terms of this distinction. Nonetheless, we now being forced to pretend that individuals can change from man to woman, from woman to man, as easily as alchemists once thought to change lead into gold.  But if we may thus whimsically change our nature, why not change from man to wolf, from woman to eagle, or any other flight of fantasy?  It sounds harmless enough until we contemplate what may be the consequences of these self-conceits.  For if, by our own conceit, we change from human to wolf, when we rip out someone’s throat, as wolves are inclined to do, should we be held accountable as a beast or as a human being?  The human must be tried for the crime.  The beast we may shoot on sight.

But what of those who look like the self-conceived wolf, but choose to act as humanity requires?  Will the confusion we encourage, by obscuring the difference between them, excuse those who see someone who looks like the self-conceited wolf, and shoots on sight; only to find the appearance was deceiving, with no mad, wolfish mind attached to it?

People who are pushing for this species of “individual freedom” pretend that they are serving humanity.  But they may. In truth, be returning us to the days when human beings, mistaken for beasts on account of how they looked or publicly behaved, could be treated like beasts—killed and/or enslaved according to the powerful whims and self-conceits of those powerful enough to do so.

Think this through and we begin to see the common sense involved in insisting that, for public purposes, people must be brought to behave according to a common standard of what humanity entails.  Whatever people may fancy themselves to be in private, shouldn’t they be required to conform, in their public lives, to a general standard of humanity whenever they interact with others? If not, isn’t it society itself that, in the end, must pay the consequences?

Time and again I’ve read articles in which people lament the costly results of the breakdown of family life.  Our present budgets are burdened by those results, especially in respect of poverty, ill health and criminal behavior. Thanks to the delusions of the so-called “welfare state”. we have become inured to budget discussions that take it for granted that these costs must be met by public expenditures This, despite the fact that it means bankrupting our constitutional self-government. This makes no sense except to those who will benefit from its collapse, and are counting on positions of power in the oppressive regime that replaces it.

There is no way to avoid this tragic prospect but to end the delusion that makes it inevitable.  Public monies should be spent for the good of the community as a whole.  As for individuals, instead of encouraging their insane fantasies of unfettered existential freedom, we must confront them with the truth—Individual rights are rooted in responsibilities, responsibilities that are not personal to ourselves, but applicable generally to all humanity; responsibilities not toward “our own conscience” but toward the demands of human conscience as informed by our Creator, God. We will never end the nation’s spiral toward bankruptcy until we acknowledge that its true cause is our abandonment of the true meaning of rights, including liberty.