Fellow columnist, Bill Ward, is right. We, as a people, used to take care of each other. As he has written, if you knew your neighbor had troubles, everyone would rally around and do what they could to help. If a barn burned, no one expected the federal government to provide the farmer with a new one. All the neighbors pitched in and helped the farmer rebuild.
Churches were one of the primary sources of assistance. If someone was down on his luck for reasons not their fault, the congregation, as well as others, would do whatever they could to help that individual, regardless of the nature of the need. If someone lost his job, parishioners were there to help out – everything from providing food, taking up a special collection, to helping the individual find another job.
Part of that “sense of community” so many people talk about came from the fact that people in cities and towns like this one helped each other. It would never have occurred to people during Bill Ward’s youth to expect, let alone feel entitled to, help from the federal government.
A modern day version of self-help is our local food pantry. The federal government has nothing to do with our food pantry. It’s staffed by volunteers, and all sorts of non-perishable food are donated to it and given to those in need. Another contemporary example is the “Changing Footprints” organization, which is essentially the same sort of operation as the food pantry. And, again, the federal government has nothing to do with it. Both of these local initiatives demonstrate that Bill Ward was, and still is, right. We, as a people, are perfectly capable of helping each other in times of need.
How did the “nanny-state” get started, you ask? It essentially began with The Great Depression, which started with the stock market crash in October, 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or middle 1940s; this was the beginning of the explosion of federal assistance programs. It is important to note that The Great Depression wasn’t just limited to the United States. It was a world-wide phenomenon that, among other things, gave rise to National Socialism in Germany which, eventually, led to World War II. Some historians contend that it was actually the Second World War which brought The Great Depression to an end. By that time, however, we were well on our way to creating an entitlement society.