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A Better State of the Union Address

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“My fellow Americans, I, William Jefferson Clinton, am pleased to report on the state of the union on the eve of the millennium and to propose a different direction for our country.

“For most of the 20th century, the primary role of the federal government has been to take care of its citizens. Welfare. Social Security. Medicare. Medicaid. Aid to education. Subsidies. Drug wars. Your federal government is now composed of thousands of departments and agencies whose mission is to provide care, sustenance, and guidance to you.

“For decades, the welfare state has enjoyed bipartisan support. While we often disagree with how government programs should be managed, both Democrats and Republicans have been firmly committed to the idea of political paternalism.

“After years of thought and reflection, however, I have decided that our nation took an enormous step backward with the implementation of the socialistic welfare state in the 1930s. This alien idea, after all, did not originate with the Founding Fathers of this nation. People such as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison had rebelled against government intrusion into their lives. And for more than 100 years, our American predecessors lived without income taxation, welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, drug wars, and other aspects of the paternalistic state.

“Where did the idea of the paternalistic state originate? From Otto von Bismarck, the ‘iron chancellor’ of Germany in the late 19th century, who himself had taken it from the German socialists of his time. Thus, it is not a coincidence that old-age retirement, national health care, and public schooling were some of the hallmarks of German National Socialism in the 1930s. For that matter, it is not a coincidence that they have also been the hallmarks of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution.

“After years of careful thought and reflection, I now believe that we were wrong to abandon the political and economic philosophy of our Founders in favor of the European socialist philosophy. The paternalistic state has weakened the self-esteem, sense of compassion, and commitment to free markets that once characterized the American people. No one can deny that today most Americans believe that they could not survive without welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; that education would be impossible without state involvement; that everyone would go on drugs if they were legalized; and that without government protection, businesses and workers would be destroyed by international competition.

“Everyone knows by now that the welfare state is not free. To pay for it requires an annual budget of $1.7 trillion, which is collected from you by the Internal Revenue Service, one of the most terrifying government agencies in history. Dismantling the paternalistic parts of our government would enable us to do what our ancestors did-live and prosper without any federal income tax. And the resulting massive accumulation of private capital would raise standards of living in ways unimaginable.

“Most important, the recapturing of our heritage of economic liberty would help to restore a sense of political morality to our land. No longer would the force of government be used to take from those who have in order to give to those who are politically privileged. No longer could politicians buy your support and votes with government programs paid for with your money.

“It is time to abandon the paternalistic direction that we embarked upon several decades ago-the course that the Nobel prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek in 1944 called ‘the road to serfdom.’ I, William Jefferson Clinton, no longer wish to be your daddy. I wish simply to be your president. After all, when I spend my time taking care of you, it leaves me no time to get my own life in order.

“Therefore, tomorrow I am submitting bills to Congress calling for the repeal, not the reform, of the income tax, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the drug war, subsidies, government involvement in education, tariffs, immigration controls, and the other parts of America’s paternalistic political system. Let the debate begin.”

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.