Ezra Taft Benson
Freedom is easily replaced by benevolent social programs designed to take care of everyone. 1
There was a time when the American people roared like lions for liberty, now we bleat like sheep for security 2. In this land, we have exalted security, comfort and ease above freedom, in the end we shall lose them all. 3
As Bastiat pointed out over a hundred years ago, once government steps over this clear line between the protective or negative role into the aggressive role of redistributing the wealth and providing so-called “benefits” for some of its citizens, it then becomes a means for what he accurately described as legalized plunder. It becomes a lever of unlimited power which is the sought-after prize of unscrupulous individuals and pressure groups, each seeking to control the machine to fatten his own pockets or to benefit its favorite charities – all with the other fellow’s money, of course. 4 . . .
As Bastiat observed, and as history has proven, each class or special interest group competes with the others to throw the lever of governmental power in their favor, or at least to immunize itself against the effects of a previous thrust. Labor gets a minimum wage, so agriculture seeks a price support. Consumers demand price controls, and industry gets protective tariffs. In the end, no one is much further ahead, and everyone sufffers the burdens of a gigantic bureaucracy and a loss of personal freedom. With each group out to get its share of the spoils, such governments historically have mushroomed into total welfare states. Once the process begins, once the principle of the protective function of government gives way to the aggressive or redistribute function, then forces are set in motion that drive the nation toward totalitarianism. “It is impossible,” Bastiat correctly observed, “to introduce into society… a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.” 5 6
Harold B. Lee
We have heard much said about keeping out of debt and avoiding speculation. From the inspired lips of the late President Anthony W. Ivins [of the First Presidency] came these words (and they should be something of a condemnation to those who disregarded his words and should be something of a blessing to those who listened to and kept that counsel), referring to and warning against borrowing and going into debt:
I fear this, that under existing conditions we are gradually drifting toward a paternal government, a government which will so intrench itself that the people will become powerless to disrupt it, in which the lives and liberties of the people at large may be jeopardized. They are pouring millions of dollars in this time of need into sources for the benefit of the people…but it is going to result in this—I am going to make this statement—that if the present policy is continued it will not be long until the government will be in the banking business, it will be in the farming business, it will be in the cattle and sheep business, for many of these debts will never be paid. That will mean the appointment of innumerable agencies. The government now is overloaded with commissions and agencies, some of them administering the very laws that Congress itself has enacted. Someone else should be administering those laws. If you want to save yourself from the bondage of debt and political influences which are not of your own choosing, I ask you to think of what I have said. 7
Now, my brethren and sisters, we have men today who have told us repeatedly and also warned against the evil and vice…in our midst. We have been told that we must patronize and foster home industry, avoid speculation, and make savings in food and clothing for at least a year. We have had our leaders plead with us to pursue a course that would tend to keep us out of war. I admonish you in all sobriety and seriousness to listen and heed before it is too late.
Oh, may we not be those of whom the Lord complained: “In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.” 8. Remember that the Lord said: “For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.” 9 10
The dole encourages dependence. Among us today are purveyors of false philosophies and nostrums who, in various walks of life, are covertly seeking power and would lull you into quiescence through the fallacious thought that public gratuities can give you security through the work of others than yourselves and that you can then live upon the results of the efforts of your neighbors. Wise leaders among us have pointed out time and time again that if you needlessly accept from others such security as man can and should provide for himself, you become a dependent, and that as the proportion of dependents in a nation grows, the standard of living falls, opportunity and freedom disappear, and the possibility of the realization of that “joy” for which men are created is greatly diminished. 11
A category of government activity which today not only requires the closest scrutiny but which also poses a grave danger to our continued freedom is the activity not within the proper sphere of government. No one has the authority to grant such power as welfare programs, schemes for redistributing the wealth, and activities which coerce people into acting in accordance with a prescribed code of social planning. There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish my goal? If I do have such a right, I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for me. 12
Today’s Socialists–who call themselves egalitarians–are using the federal government to redistribute wealth in our society–not as a matter of voluntary charity, but as a so-called matter of right. One Housing, Education, and Welfare official said, “In this country, welfare is no longer charity; it is a right. More and more Americans feel that their government owes them something.” (U.S. News and World Report, 21 April 1975, page 49.) President Grover Cleveland said–and we believe as a people–that though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. 13
Critics of independence, self-help, and self-reliance have their own theory. These critics believe that the national government can do most things better for the people than they do for themselves as individuals or through their state and local governments. I believe the closer to home you keep government the more effective it will be–and it will cost less.
These critics also believe that federal employees in Washington know more about your school, your farm, your business, your job, than you, the people, do in your own communities on your farms, in your businesses. You and I know that is not true–and we do not believe it. 14
And now the king cried out in the anguish of his soul, saying: Gideon, spare me, for the Lamanites are upon us, and they will destroy us; yea, they will destroy my people.
And now the king was not so much concerned about his people as he was about his own life; nevertheless, Gideon did spare his life.
- Ezra Taft Benson
- Norman Vincent Peale
- Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report April 1968.
- Frederic Bastiat, The Law
- Frederic Bastiat, The Law, p. 12
- Ezra Taft Benson, The Proper Role of Government
- Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, October 1932, pp. 111-12.
- D&C 101:8
- D&C 78:7
- Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, pp. 284-285.
- Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 324; Radio address delivered June 10, 1945.
- An Enemy Hath Done This, page 135.
- “A Vision and a Hope for the Youth of Zion,” in 1977 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: BYU, 1978], page 77.
- The Red Carpet, pages 158-59.