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« The Carnival Of Classiness. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 78 -- College Investment. »

Dependency Index.

Government programs, once established, are difficult to reform, and almost impossible to eliminate. There is a ratcheting up effect in terms of government spending that defies the laws of gravity. That which goes up... must stay up.

Government programs, even in the face of unequivocal, indisputable evidence showing 1) that we can't afford them, 2) that they are un- or counter- productive, or 3) that we can just plain do better than the status quo, tend to create constituencies based on dependence. These constituencies frighten even professed and well-intentioned fiscal conservatives into cowered submission.

The Heritage Foundation believes this culture of dependence has deleterious effects on the very nature our democracy:

...as citizens become more dependent on government, the very nature of our democracy begins to change. A citizenry that reaches a certain tipping point in dependency on government runs the risk of evolving into a society that demands an ever-expanding government that caters to group self-interests rather than pursuing the public good.

So, how are we doing as a nation, dependence-wise?

William W. Beach believes he has the answer.

The number of Americans dependent on the government at some significant level has risen substantially over the years.


This percentage growth is three times the U.S. popula­tion growth rate over the same period and twice the growth rate of the population age 65 and above.

Clearly, an ever-growing number of Americans (one in six Americans, or 18%) partake in government dependency. If you include government employees, the growth is even more rapid (one in four Americans, or 25%). Government employees, bless them, are a perfect example of a constituency with a vested interest in maintaining or growing, rather than curtailing, government spending.

Per capita, the story is a little different:


In inflation-adjusted dollars, the number has actually fallen from its heyday in the 1960s, remaining essentially flat since the mid-1980s. But the number has still risen substantially over the years.

Does this mean we should aim to eliminate all of the programs that make up the dependency index? No, not exactly. Some of them are even worthwhile investments in America. Others, not so much.

Going forward, realistically, it is best to rein in the future growth of these programs, while transforming others into programs fitting the tenets of the Ownership Society. Only a few programs on the list, unfortunately, could feasibly be eliminated entirely-- and with great gnashing of teeth.

Social Security is a prime example of a program with a worthwhile purpose that we must transform according to free enterprise principles; giving citizens the choice of less dependence on government is very much the American way, and it's hard to imagine that many Americans would not choose personal accounts. Personal accounts would remove a significant layer of dependence on government, restoring the important correlation between working life input and retirement output.

Beach explains:

At some point, as significant numbers of citizens come to look more and more to government for ben­efits, they come to expect or depend on those bene­fits. In the worst case, some are largely if not completely dependent on the services and benefits provided by government. By the old definition, one is less independent and has less freedom of action. At best, regular economic benefits become a real and substantial interest and bias one’s opinion in favor of maintaining, if not expanding, those benefits.

It's hard to imagine dependency continuing to rise without profoundly-- and negatively-- affecting American democracy. But we still hold the power to reform key programs, confirming and protecting American independence from excessive government intrusion.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 June 2005 06:11 PM


There should be a law against that!...HA... Just kidding!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at June 15, 2005 01:52 PM