on Self-Reliance

“Men are made stronger on realization that the helping hand they need is at the end of their own arm”. Sir Sidney J. Phil (1554-1586 AD) English poet, courtier and soldier

As we all know by now, over half of Americans are not paying any federal income tax, and now we find out that food stamp usage reached an all time high of over 44 million users (14%). Unemployment is also at a 27 year high, the dollar is in the toilet, the markets are down and we are under threat of our credit rating being lowered. The news sure seems to be gloomy, and everyone is pointing fingers.

Everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else but themselves at least. Whatever happened to good old fashioned self- reliance? When did it become so easy and acceptable to rely on others for sustenance and a living? When did encouraging dependency equate to being compassionate? Are so many truly in such dire need, or has it perhaps just become easier to turn to a dispassionate government that doesn’t demand accountability?

Self-reliance built this country, and many Americans still believe in its virtue. We know that government is a fickle and meager provider, and the only good master that you will ever have is yourself. Americans have always been unique in the world in this idea, as most of our country’s history was built by an independent and hard-working people. Entitlements are only a recent 20th century phenomenon, and they are beginning to undermine the very fabric of what gives our country strength.

We are a generous people, and the services we have for those in need exist because Americans are compassionate. However, there is a delicate balance between helping and hindering. Entitlements were intended to be a safety net, not a hammock. Unfortunately, it seems to me that they now cater to man’s weaker nature of dependency and laziness, instead of calling them to greatness and pushing them upward towards self-reliance. Government run “charity” is like that: it has no human reasoning and gives only according to the logic of politics (an oxymoron I know). And the bigger this “charity” gets, the worse it becomes at holding those it serves accountable to both themselves and the nation.

There will always be those that abuse the systems of services we offer. There will always be those that would rather feed off of another’s largess instead of putting in the sweat and tears that life sometimes calls us to do. However, the smaller the government, the less centralized it is, the easier it would be for local communities to encourage and help their members reach self-reliance. It would also be much easier to hold those that abuse the generosity of others to account. I have found that the school of hard knocks and having to look your neighbors in the eye does more to stretch oneself towards self-reliance than any temporary handout ever could. A nation is stronger when its people are stronger; no one can ever be stronger if they remain dependent on others.

Times are hard. The news is dire, but we are Americans, and we will trudge through this specter of decline and emerge victorious like we have so many times before. The only difference now is that there are fewer of us that believe in the principle of self-reliance and self-determination. But Americans time and time again have proven that we are quite capable of picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off, despite what all the Chicken Littles in Washington and Des Moines say. The sky won’t fall if we scale back government and return to a nation of self-reliant people. I know this because I know how strong Americans are; it is always through adversity that you will see our strength. I also know how good Americans are; we will always band together and step in to help those truly in need without government intervention (and we will always do it faster and far more efficiently).

Self-reliance means bailing yourself out, instead of waiting for the government or others to do it for you. It means never believing it when someone tells you that you cannot do something. It means the satisfaction and stability you gain in knowing that you are in control of your own destiny. It is one of the founding principles of our nation, and it is one of those qualities that have made us great. We will have no reason to fear the future if we know that it ultimately rests in our own calloused hands.

“Only those means of security are good, are certain, are lasting, that depend on yourself and your own vigor”. Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (1469-1529 AD), Italian philosopher, playwright & diplomat

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