When a politician offers you something at other people’s expense, remember these words of the poet John Dryden: “Better to shun the bait than struggle in the snare.”
Dryden’s admonition would have saved us a lot of trouble if we had applied its insight consistently to our economic and political thinking. The failure to do so has produced one disaster after another.
When U.S. President Lyndon Johnson inaugurated “Great Society” entitlement programs in the 1960s, wiser men and women warned that such programs would empower bureaucracies, waste vast sums of money, create generations of dependency and bankrupt the Treasury. Unfortunately, Americans took the bait and now we struggle in the snare.
Hugo Chavez promised Venezuelans a socialist paradise. People bought it, without pausing to realize that evil methods rarely result in good ends. Venezuelans now struggle in the snare. It’s always more difficult to get out of it than to avoid it in the first place.
This is proof of the value of core principles that are rooted in what’s right, not necessarily what’s popular at the moment. If you don’t have core principles, or if you toss them because you can’t take the heat, you may pay an awful price down the road. My advice? Do the right thing now or you will inevitably regret your failure later. How many times does this have to be stated before its wisdom sinks in?
Economist Thomas Sowell illustrated just how current this issue still is when he noted thusly: “A recent poll showed that nearly half the American public believes that the government should redistribute wealth. That so many people are so willing to blithely put such an enormous, dangerous and arbitrary power in the hands of politicians—risking their own freedom, in hopes of getting what someone else has—is a painful sign of how far many citizens and voters fall short of what is needed to preserve a democratic republic.”
Marian Anderson, the great American singer and civil rights advocate offered this sage observation:
There are many persons ready to do what is right because in their hearts they know it is right. But they hesitate, waiting for the other fellow to make the first move—and he, in turn, waits for you.
Knowing what the right thing is and possessing the mettle to do it are two distinct traits. They aren’t always present within the same person. A person’s character is what makes all the difference.
If you don’t know what the right thing is, you lack knowledge that a book or a lecture may provide. If you know what the right thing is but can’t bring yourself to do it, then you’ve got a character problem that only a personal change of heart can fix. People everywhere must decide if they want to be free, responsible and independent on the one hand or handicapped on the other with costly promises of politicians that put us on a path to dependence and bankruptcy.
In the end, Dryden’s advice is a call to character, don’t you think?