The need to be needed is universal. Men need it; women need it. The sexes may feel needed in different ways, but the depth of the need is the same. Many women feel particularly alive when needed by their young children; many men feel worthy when needed by their family and/or their work.
[…]Only when we are needed do we believe we have significance. Give a boy a special task — just about any task — and he blossoms. Give a girl a person — in fact, almost any living being — who depends on her, and she blossoms.
[…]As I regularly note, the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. One can add: The bigger the government, the less significant the citizen — especially men.
This is easy to explain because it is definitional. The more the state does, the less its citizens are needed to do. One well-known example is the way welfare robbed so many men of significance when women and their children came to depend financially on the state.
And it goes further than that. In order to feel significant, men not only need to have others depend on them, they also need to depend on themselves, on their own work and initiative. But that, too, is destroyed as the state gets bigger. Fewer and fewer people work for themselves (which leads to, among other things, the disappearance of that quintessentially American ideal of the risk-taking entrepreneur).
It gets worse. As being needed and significant shifts from the individual to the state, the state increasingly determines who is needed and who has significance.
Prager goes on to explain three groups who have increasing influence as government grows – politicians, news media, and intellectuals.
Is America set for decline? It’s been a grand run. The country’s been the leading economic power since it overtook Britain in the 1880s. That’s impressive. Nevertheless, over the course of that century and a quarter, Detroit went from the world’s industrial powerhouse to an urban wasteland, and the once-golden state of California atrophied into a land of government run by the government for the government. What happens when the policies that brought ruin to Detroit and sclerosis to California become the basis for the nation at large? Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet. But what will ensure it is if the American people accept decline as a price worth paying for European social democracy.
Is that so hard to imagine? Every time I retail the latest indignity imposed upon the “citizen” by some or other Continental apparatchik, I receive e-mails from the heartland pointing out, with much reference to the Second Amendment, that it couldn’t happen here because Americans aren’t Euro-weenies. But nor were Euro-weenies once upon a time. Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road to Serfdom is psychological: “There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought,” he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944. “It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel. The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.” Two-thirds of a century on, almost every item on the list has been abandoned, from “independence and self-reliance” (40 percent of people receive state handouts) to “a healthy suspicion of power and authority” — the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government “do something,” the cost to individual liberty be damned. American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government and not witness, in enough of the populace, the same descent into dependency and fatalism. As Europe demonstrates, a determined state can change the character of a people in the space of a generation or two. Look at what the Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population: That’s what happened in Britain.
Could it happen here?