Walter E. Williams

What's the common thread between Europe's financial mess, particularly among the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), and the financial mess in the U.S.? That question could be more easily answered if we asked instead: What's necessary to cure the financial mess in Europe and the U.S.? If European governments and the U.S. Congress ceased the practice of giving people what they have not earned, budgets would be more than balanced. For government to guarantee a person a right to goods and services he has not earned, it must diminish someone else's right to what he has earned, simply because governments have no resources of their very own.

The first order of business in reaching a solution to the financial mess in Europe and the U.S. must be the recognition that governments have been doing a class of unsustainable things, mostly giving people special privileges and things that they have not earned. It's a matter of not simply what's good or bad for the beneficiaries but what its effect is on society at large and the welfare of a nation.

Take the understandably humane motivation to provide health care services for the medically indigent. If one is concerned about the health needs of a person, why shouldn't the government also provide him with resources for nutrition? Good health is not just medical services and food but a decent place to live. Furthermore, good health is a matter of not just physical well-being but mental well-being as well, so why not have government-sponsored vacations? That's not such a far-fetched idea as one might imagine. Antonio Tajani, the European commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship, has declared vacationing to be a "human right."


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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