By Dr. Stanley Watson, Syndicated Columnist
The Picayune Item
Mitt Romney accuses President Obama of fostering government dependency and that he seeks "a government-centered society, where government grows bigger and more active, occupying more of our everyday lives." Romney's remarks have been countered by the president and in the media by painting presidential candidate Romney as a cold businessman with little or no concern for needy Americans.
When the founders wrote the constitution they drew from a number of great political thinkers from several periods in history. A favorite was Cicero who lived in the century before Jesus. They agreed with his basic principles for building a nation:
Cicero reminded his countrymen that their final best hope was for the commonwealth to cleanse itself of their depravity and return to the Laws of the Creator. Our Founding Fathers also visualized a nation with a high level of moral and spiritual values. They used the national symbol, the eagle, to illustrate the structure of the United States. The eagle had three heads which stood for the three branches of government and two wings which symbolized the right and left political parties of the nation.
The left wing focuses on the needs of the people and devises elaborate plans to meet each need.
The right wing focuses on the proper use of the nations resources and the preservation of the people's freedom. Its function is to ask two questions: Can we afford it? What will it do to the rights and freedom of the people?
America was founded on the proposition that "All men are created equal". We are different in looks, in skills, in mental capacity, and emotional stability but before the law we are all equal - each of us has an equal title to God-given liberties.
The Founders recognized that society should seek to provide: "
— equal opportunity but not expect equal results;
— equal freedom but not expect equal capacity;
— equal rights but not equal possessions;
— equal protection but not equal status;
— equal educational opportunities but not equal grades."
— Cleon Klousen A survey of Ben Franklin's views on misplaced compassion would be instructive today:
"Compassion can easily become an enabling course of action which gives a drunk the means to increase his drinking. It can breed dependency and weakness, blunt the desire or necessity to work for a living and weaken the instinct to strive and excel."
In short, charity, unless it is done appropriately, is a put-down. It can violate the principle of equality and imply that some of us are more equal than others.
The leaders of the early nation recognized that it is our Christian duty to help the poor and underprivileged and outlined the way to do it appropriately:
Help the needy only to the point that they can help themselves.
Allow them the satisfaction of "earned achievement" instead of rewarding them without achievement.
The poor must be encouraged to climb the "appreciation ladder -from tents to cabins, cabins to cottages, cottages to comfortable houses."
Never prolong emergency help to the point where it becomes habitual.
Strictly enforce the scale of "fixed responsibility." The first and foremost level of responsibility is with the individual himself; the second level is the family; then the church; next the community; finally the county, and, in a disaster or emergency, the state.
The Founders decided not to give constitutional authority to the government to intervene in the local affairs of the people including charity or welfare. They felt they were protecting the unalienable rights of the people from abuse by an over-aggressive government as well as serving the best interests of the needy.
Samuel Adams stated that a welfare state was unconstitutional:
"The utopian schemes of leveling .are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government, unconstitutional."
America's greatest generation grew up in the great depression of the 1930s and tend to identify with the poor with one caveat: They are convinced that today's poor should not reap where they have not sown; that the poor do much better when they are given opportunity and encouragement instead of placing them in a welfare class The poor have much to offer when they are treated as responsible citizens instead of permanent wards of the state.
What happened in America under the principles favored by the Founders was the wonder of the world. The Americans were soon on their way to becoming the most prosperous and best-educated nation in the world. They were also the freest and most generous people on earth, not simply because they were Americans but because these principles would work wonders for any nation.