The ‘Green New Deal’ Would Only Crush People’s Spirit

The problem with the "Green New Deal"? It would make people dependent, rather than help them be free.

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on February 13, 2019

The so-called “Green New Deal” — that manifesto for American self-destruction — calls for “economic security” for all Americans. One problem with that? We can’t have that kind of “economic security” if we want prosperity and we need prosperity to achieve economic security.

The bigger problem with that? It requires a government that crushes people’s spirits. It makes people dependent, rather than helping them be free.

The Lessons of History

As one observer put it: “The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America. Work must be found for able-bodied but destitute workers.”

And another: “What we want is for people who are able not to be permanently dependent on government, but able to stand on their own two feet, to support their family, and have a constructive attitude toward our society.”

And a third: “We still can’t change the welfare system unless it is rooted in getting people back to work. You can lecture people, you can encourage people, you can do whatever you want, but there has to be something at the end of the road for people who work hard and play by the rules. Work is the best social program this country ever devised. It gives hope and structure and meaning to our lives.”

Those Conservative Republicans

Yep, those conservative Republicans — so mean-spirited, so hard on the poor, so uncaring. Oh, wait! These were Democrats. Democratic presidents, in fact. The first of these quotes is from Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. Next is Jimmy Carter in 1978, and finally Bill Clinton in 1994.

I quote them not because they were champions of limited government, but because they understood the dignity of work. The soul-erosion of dependence. They knew that if you pay someone for not doing what he should, he will remain “on the dole” indefinitely. That’s human nature.

Human nature is something our friends on the left seem never to want to think about. At least realistically. This comes down to one of the basic divides between liberals and progressives, on the one hand, and conservatives on the other.

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The latter believe in human dignity from conception until natural death. But they — we — also believe that man is a fallen being with an inner tendency to resist God and goodness. Unlike those on the left, who think that with more social and political coercion, the great unwashed — us — can be molded into more worthy beings.

Yes, public policy influences behavior. Just consider the 60 million unborn children killed since Roe v. Wade made abortion-on-demand the law of the land. But the left isn’t talking any longer about changing certain patterns of conduct.

People like Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Castro talk about “transformation.” They don’t just want a new America. They want new and improved Americans. And, since they know best how to make them, they will keep demanding and insisting and creating discord until they seize power. That’s when their real work will begin.

Back to Work

Work. There’s that word again. The state can’t provide “economic security” if we care about prosperity — if we care about achieving as much real economic security as we can find in this world. Why? Because prosperity requires ambition, training, education, and risk. This is true of every job.

Every time someone clocks in for his minimum wage job or walks into the executive suite to run a company, he takes a risk. That his labor — what he produces, his ideas, his experience — will be sufficiently worthy to merit the income he’s agreed to accept. And the quality of his labor offers the potential of promotion, higher income, and greater challenge.

If we want the abundance we’ve come to take for granted, we have to have incentives for great attainment. We have to make work pay better than dependence. Economic limits are a wound to the soul. They send the painful message that no matter how well you perform or how hard you try, you’ll hit a ceiling that will prevent you from exercising the full range of your gifts and skills.

Other presidents have realized that economic security comes not from guaranteed income, but from a safe and free society. As Truman said in launching the Marshall Plan: “We seek lasting peace in a world where freedom and justice are secure and where there is equal opportunity for the economic well-being of all peoples.”

“Equal opportunity” for “economic well-being.” That means freedom to create prosperity in order to create economic security. Way back in 1947, Harry Truman was on to something. Something many leaders of his party have abandoned.

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