I sent the below letter to the Holland Sentinel.
To the Editor,
If Ray Buursma hadn’t “taken his tongue out of his cheek” at the end of last week’s column, I’d have thought it was straight from 19th century America (“Sure, let everyone fend for themselves” 1/13). Buursma attempts to appeal to our dignity by invoking ideals such as “community” and “responsibility” in an essay that was a snide slap in the face to the character and ethics of the truly dignified people who once populated this country.
President Cleveland once vetoed a bill to send federal money to drought-stricken farmers in Texas with the admonition, "Though the people support the government, it is not the duty of the government to support the people." Those farmers got their aid - 10 times more in private assistance as the amount the President refused to redistribute through a federal bureaucracy. His veto continued: "The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune." Aid from Washington only "encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character."
Cleveland tried to tell us that government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes from somebody, and that a government big enough to give us everything we want is big enough to take away everything we’ve got. We've since fooled ourselves into thinking that government can help our fellow man better, faster, and cheaper than we can help them ourselves. Buursma is only halfway there by saying “the bottom line is humanity.” The bottom line is also humility – humility to confess that a massive, distant bureaucracy can’t solve individual problems at the local level, and the humility to confess that the enforced taking of your neighbor’s money has no place in true responsibility, community, and charity.