Remember the satisfaction of receiving your first paycheck? I know I do. My first job was as a construction worker, and I’ll never forget depositing that hard-earned cash in my very own bank account. I was 15 years old, and I was becoming self-reliant.
Self-reliance is a distinctly American virtue. It is why we feel proud when we put knowledge and skill in motion to provide for ourselves and our families. Self-reliance is also one of the cornerstones of my new book, Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
Conservatives often talk of the need to reduce the size of government, and we are right to do so. The realities of 21st-century government, however, are such that we must first reduce the demand for government before we can truly begin limiting its size and scope.
For example, consider a recent story out of Connecticut. A Bridgeport city councilman has proposed a new law that would require all public bathrooms to have a coat hook. Why? Because, he says, no one should be forced to put their belongings on the floor of a public bathroom.
Mandatory coat hooks? Do they need to be brass or silver? Give me a b-r-e a-k!
Maybe the citizens of Bridgeport will channel their rugged New England individualism and revolt against this foolish proposal. More likely, however, is a chorus of ‘Yeah, that sounds right. Government should do that.’
As conservatives, we are tasked with changing this mentality.
It all starts with individuals. But there’s more to it than a few throw-away lines about personal responsibility in a State of the Union address or some meaningless congressional declaration. Rather, it’s about implementing real government policies that facilitate and develop self-reliance.
Thankfully, American history provides numerous examples of government done good. Let’s consider two examples cited in Getting America Right that were both remarkably effective in utilizing government authority to cultivate self-reliance in America:
First, the Homestead Act of 1862, which invited any U.S. resident aged twenty-one or older to become a then vitally needed farmer at government expense. The applicant paid a mere $18 in filing fees for the opportunity to take over 160 acres of public land and farm it for five years. At that point, if the neighbors vouched for his or her success, the applicant kept the farm permanently as private property.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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