- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009


As any schoolchild could tell you, our Founders rebelled against British rule because they wanted to escape a too-intrusive government. But we have since allowed government to expand in ways the Founders never contemplated.

Our government is expanding again. American women should consider what that means for their families and our basic rights and liberties.

Federal spending has soared this past year. While it is justified as necessary to stimulate a flagging economy, it’s worth asking why our government grew so big even before the banking and housing crises hit. For decades, the federal government has spent nearly $1 of every $5 in the economy. This year, that will climb to about $1 in $4. To support this spending, the government is issuing trillions of dollars of new debt it claims is necessary to solve today’s problems. But what about tomorrow’s?

We are constrained today because our government is already so large and overextended. That problem will only get worse.

Because of promises the government already has made - most specifically spending on Social Security and Medicare - the share of the economy that government will demand is going to continue to balloon.

This isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents. This means your children and grandchildren will have less control over the money they earn and their property because they will have to pay off liabilities accrued this year. That generation will have less to meet global challenges, and each family will have less to meet personal ones.

Government is also taking over important aspects of what once was considered private life. Today Congress debates how to reconfigure the health care system. We should all ask why we should expect, or want, government to be so involved in this critical aspect of society.

Government health programs are sold as providing access to medical care, but they also restrict access. The rules that govern Medicare discourage doctors from taking on elderly patients. Government health programs guide doctors away from some treatments and steer them toward others. We know from other countries with government-run health systems that if we go the route of a “public option” for health insurance, such rationing will get worse.

Many have applauded the new law that gives government more leeway to regulate cigarettes. Most mothers instinctively celebrate anything that promises to help keep their children from smoking.

Economists and policymakers will debate whether efforts to restrict access to cigarettes result in healthier behavior: Will kids really smoke less, or will restrictions encourage a black market, introducing kids to more dangerous people and products? That empirical question is important, but there’s something more fundamental: Isn’t it our job, as parents, to discourage our children from smoking? Where does the role of government as parent end?

Such government action is often justified as necessary to promote good health and protect taxpayers because government picks up so much of the health care tab. Thus, one expansion of government leads to another.

Once we accept that logic, why should government stop there? Many behaviors create public health costs, from eating fattening foods and drinking sugary drinks to driving, hang gliding, playing football, sunbathing and having sex outside of marriage. Should government discourage those behaviors?

Many will look at the list and find one that they think justifies government action and then shake their heads that it’s absurd for government to be involved in the others.

But our heads shake at different things. The Founders knew that. That’s why they sought to limit government and leave the vast majority of decisions to individuals. Individuals were supposed to keep nearly all of their property so that they could provide for their own health care and houses, take care of their children and pursue their idea of happiness free of government interference. That faith in the individual is the core of our country. It’s worth celebrating - and preserving - today.

Carrie Lukas is the vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women’s Forum and the author of the “Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.”

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