Editor’s note: A version of this article was first published at Forbes.com
The American dream has been, and still is, under attack.
The attack will continue to enjoy success because President Obama’s administration has now gained the support of political allies beyond their immediate inner circle.
Dependence On The State
Some think tanks are documenting the progress of this agenda. No book does it better than, A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic published by Templeton Press in 2012. Its author, Nick Eberstadt, of the American Enterprise Institute, describes a worrisome trend: 49 percent of American families now receive some type of government assistance.
One of the worst effects as described by Eberstadt is that, “Seven percent of men in their late 30s (the prime working age-group) had totally checked out of the workforce,” and that … the situation is worse “in America than in practically any Western European economy.”
This includes, “contemporary Greece, the poster child for modern welfare-state dysfunction.” All of this was before the Affordable Care Act began last month. Those making the bare minimum will soon have another disincentive to seek work and to produce and earn more: losing Obamacare health subsidies.
From banks to defense and to insurance companies, more and more corporations are seeing that their bottom line depends on privileges, subsidies or good relationships with government agencies. This surge in government dependency has been a bi-partisan effort. In fact, entitlements grew faster under Republican leadership than Democrat leadership. Opposition to this agenda comes from “Tea Party” conservatives, and libertarians.
Weakening U.S. Presence In The World
As soon as the Obama administration took power, the message to foreign diplomats and policy players could be summarized in one sentence: We are not President George W. Bush.
The 2012 movie 2016 tries to make the case that the effort to change America is rooted in the anti-colonialist ideology of the current president. Respected analysts like Thomas Sowell, of the Hoover Institution, make the strong statement that he has “never believed for a moment that Barack Obama has the best interests of the United States at heart.”
In Latin America, recent surveys show that although the U.S. is still seen with favorable views by 70 percent of the population, better than any other nation, only 10 percent think the U.S. plays a leadership role.
Libertarians and conservatives applaud the strength of American business in the global scene. However, as imperial overreach has brought down many countries, reducing the role of U.S. aid across the globe gets the support of most libertarians and many conservatives.
Attack On Intermediary Associations
Family, churches, charities, clubs, and associations occupy the space between the individual and the state. Alexis de Tocqueville, saw that the health of American civil society depended on the strength of these intermediary associations.
In an interview during a program of the Acton Institute, Professor Brian Smith summarizes de Tocqueville’s view saying that, “He realized that the great danger in modern, egalitarian democracy lay in our tendency toward what he called ‘individualism.’ In the U.S., at least, we don’t normally consider this a dangerous notion. But for him, individualism implied not heroism, but a kind of retreat into isolated nothingness and an evasion of responsibility for one’s fellow man.”
Smith further points out that de Tocqueville thought that intermediary associations, “train us to recognize the ways we can satisfy our various needs without turning to political power to provide the goods we require. He says these associations teach the art of being free and living responsibly. Without them, we will fall out of practice at self-government.”
Most intermediary associations in the U.S. are structured as non-profit corporations. This allows citizens to have an approximate idea of the corporation’s size and composition. More than half of all donations go to churches, health providers, and educational institutions. The state still does not control this sector, but it is already a major player in the non-profit welfare arena, and the Affordable Care Act will help expand the state footprint across the board.
Although from health care to hiring practices many libertarians support the right of free association for individuals and intermediary associations, not all do thereby facilitating the continued effort to make intermediary associations subservient to government and politically correct ideas.
A nation of takers, with weaker intermediary associations, is not the American dream, nor is this a good example for the world. The battle lines are drawn and the outcome will likely depend on the work of think tanks and those working diligently to keep a republic founded on freedom rather than on government power.
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