We are all familiar with the saying “nothing in life is free.” Yet many American citizens forget this bit of common sense when it comes to government spending. Most of us have, no doubt, seen the recent video clips of Detroit locals lined up for”some of that Obama money.” When asked where Obama gets this money, one of the people in line replied “from his stash.” But Obama’s and Congress’ “stash” is not free money. It’s made up of money they took from productive citizens.
Even the most educated among us, on either side of the political aisle, are not immune from the thoughtlessness of the Detroit resident in the face of “free” money from the government. In fact, the government is usually returning something that was originally yours – for example, the first stimulus checks (ranging from $300 to $1,200) doled out during the Bush administration. That pittance was a meager return of the vast amounts of money confiscated by the government. With the exception of deceased recipients (there were a few of them), most folks receiving the checks regarded them as if they were found money, not money that had previously been taken from them.
Few of us would accept or be fooled by a friend, family member, or stranger taking a portion of our money or possessions and then magnanimously”giving” it to us as if we had never seen it before. Why should this be any different when the government does it? We’d all be much more “stimulated” if the state kept its hands off our money in the first place.
You’re probably thinking that libertarians don’t need this lecture. We, of all people, should know these things. I agree, but that’s not why I raise the issue. Many American citizens are unhappy with the government’s economic meddling, and many of them are looking for an ideology or party that articulates their hands-off view of the economy. Libertarians tend not to be “evangelical”; and I am not recommending that we become a bunch of “Road to Serfdom” or “Atlas Shrugged” thumpers, as other people are Bible thumpers. But in this highly unsettled time, when so many people are questioning the current administration’s policies and motives, we can take each complaint from our fellow citizens as an opportunity to remind them that nothing in life is free. We can let them know that when the government gives you something, not only is that something not free, it comes at a steep cost – most often to our liberty.