Government Dependence – At What Point Do We Take Care Of Ourselves?

At what point do we cross the line between dependence on the government, and taking care of ourselves?

On October 7, 2016, Hurricane Matthew visited my town. When we woke up on October 8, most of our beautiful beach was gone, all of the homes on the beach lost their foundation, and hundreds are still trying to recover from devastating loss. Shortly after the hurricane, someone started a Facebook page where those in need could ask for help, and those of us who could help volunteered. It was a truly remarkable thing to watch; this small community totally dependent on tourism coming together to put itself back together. And we did. Fast.

In today’s paper, I read that the City Commission voted to allow water bill relief for some who experienced a hurricane-related leak or another issue. I thought, “That’s cool.”

But that government aid is supplementary for the city. Those who could have already moved forward with repairs and recovery thanks to friends and neighbors.

I started thinking about how much we all rely on the government to take care of us. We really do. We expect that they will build roads and bridges that are safe, we expect that they will watch our transportation systems and protect us from harm. We look to them to rescue us after a natural disaster. We trust (sometimes) that they will make economic decisions that allow us to maintain our lifestyle. We expect that their trade decisions will allow us to have any kind of food and produce available in our grocery stores at any time of the year. We look to the government to keep companies honest in treating employees fairly. We expect a lot.

I took a little mental trip to a time when, if there were a hurricane or other natural disaster, there was no government to pick up the pieces. Either it was before government existed, or because of the huge number of agencies developed over the years to address our needs for safety, protection and privilege had not yet been established.

Back then, citizens would rally together and fix things. They had no choice. Sometimes, their devastating losses meant the total ruin of their business and there was no one to give them aid. Their neighbors helped, or didn’t. Life went on.

Perhaps I am jaded, but I think those days also built strength and resilience. When you have to acknowledge and fix your own problems, you learn, grow and become stronger.

Do we really want to be victims?

Personally, I like being strong, and I am strong because of the challenges I have successfully overcome. I don’t want to be a victim; it makes me sad and hopeless.

Today, as I read what is left of my Facebook feed (I’ve unfollowed those that make my blood pressure boil) I can’t help but think that we have become a population of victims. Those who are active in special interest groups are bemoaning the possible loss of government protection, and they don’t really even know if that protection is at risk. So, they protest.

What’s interesting is the degree of energy that exists in those who are protesting.

Have we crossed a line?

Special interest groups have lobbied hard and used their energy to convince the government to build an infrastructure that protects everyone. Much of that infrastructure is a bright, shining light of hope for those that may not have had hope. I can vote. My friend can marry his partner. There are consequences for an employer treating me poorly. There are laws and first responders to keep us safe. Everyone can speak their mind, even when it hurts others.

But perhaps we have gone too far in enabling victimhood. Perhaps now is the time to carefully consider what is the government’s role and what is our role. By legislating an easy mortgage for first-time homebuyers, are we robbing young people of the joy of the first small walk-up apartment? By offering our privileges to those who do not pay taxes, are we overburdening those who do? By talking about abortion as a reproductive right including the use as birth control, are we minimizing the responsibilities of adulthood?

There are no easy answers to any of those questions. But we can use all of the collective energy to rail, accuse, and blame, or we can use it to have a healthy and honest debate about what is good for our country. It’s our choice.


Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson
CAROL is the founder and Principal of Anderson Performance Partners, LLC, a business consultancy focused on bringing together organizational leaders to unite all aspects of the business – CEO, CFO, HR – to build, implement and evaluate a workforce alignment strategy. With over 35 years of executive leadership, she brings a unique lens and proven methodologies to help CEOs demand performance from HR and to develop the capability of HR to deliver business results by aligning the workforce to the strategy. She is the author of Leading an HR Transformation, published by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2018, which provides a practical RoadMap for human resource professionals to lead the process of aligning the workforce to the business strategy, and deliver results, and writes regularly for several business publications.

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  1. Carol – Your article speaks volumes. We, as a people so blessed with freedom, seem to be ready to give it all up for each new handout from the government. Parents are raising kids who feel entitled to receive whatever they want without understanding that the parents had to work to earn the money to purchase their latest “gotta have”. So, they grow up to believe someone should provide for their every need and if the government fills that role, they will allow it to do so without understanding the cost. Thanks for starting this important discussion.

    • Me too. That is why I try to mentor young folks every chance I get. I want them to learn that it is so much better to earn things in life. That way, they can learn that success brings its own reward.

    • Another thought – my husband and I were talking about the kids from FL who said that kids should run the country, since adults obviously couldn’t. My husband stated, “the arrogance of youth.” Then we both thought about it and said, “but youth has always been arrogant. It is just this generation of youth that has parents who have not established the filters or parameters of behavior that make youth seem more arrogant today.” That’s part of why I don’t think the millennials are any different in what they want or need than prior generations, but they have been allowed to think they are privileged. Still thinking….

    • Classic example. This school was a mess with a large number of students being arrested for criminal violations in the school. Bet the parents were constantly complaining about the unfairness of this and the School Board was embarrassed by the high number of expulsions. The solution – stop involving the police and let the infraction be punished by the school in some benign manner. Abracadabra! I better school! But now as we know – not really. We don’t need more government – we need parents to be parents. Great discussion.

  2. Independence of our government is something many think about, especially when disaster hits! Living here in Houston of only five years and coming from California known for its earthquakes, I see how messed up aid and government assistant is. So many roads need fixing, but when I do see infrastructure at work, it is in an area that needs little upgrade. I don’t know what will happen when California gets hit with the BIG ONE.!

    • Thanks for your comment, Lynn. Another commenter made the statement – government is responsible for infrastructure and the individual is responsible for himself. I’ve been noodling that and sort of like it. We do need to maintain order in our country – that happens with laws and infrastructure. But we also need resilience. That comes with figuring out how to overcome a challenge.

  3. Many good issues and questions, Carol. Personally, I was independent at age 13 and thank God for it. Yes, of course I use roads, bridges, and airports. I rely on law enforcement and fire departments. But, the bottom line for me is I want as little interference and oversight by government as possible. I’ll stand on my own and be responsible for my action or inaction thank you very much.