There are two competing views of the world that can explain most of the political opinions in the United States. The statist view is that the government is responsible for directing the whole society towards the good so it has to enact and enforce rules to direct the society. The libertarian view, on the other hand, is that the individuals should be left free to live their lives and use their property to meet their own goals provided that they don’t commit aggression towards other people.
The statists define the good in an egalitarian fashion to mean the state of affairs that provide similar outcomes for all. They ignore the fact that outcomes are defined mostly by the inputs and efforts used to achieve them and that people have different abilities and resources so they cannot reach similar outcomes. For example, statists decry income variations as unfair and advocate policies and rules to redistribute income from people who made more to people who made less. Some of the statist policies to achieve what they see as fairer income distribution are the welfare state, progressive income tax, and affirmative action. In spite of over 100 years of progressive income taxes, over 50 years of the welfare state, and over 40 years of affirmative action no fundamental change happened. People who have more human capital such as education and skills make much more money than people who no or less human capital, people on welfare remain on welfare and rarely move out of government dole, and people who have stable families and belong to cultures that believe in hard work and driving for results achieve better education outcome. The main reason that statists fail to achieve any of their goals is that equality is not the natural state of the world, people have different skills, cultures and resources and that cause different outcomes and nothing can change that. You can place anyone in a high-quality university but unless that person developed the right skills he or she cannot graduate with the same grades and education as someone who did. You can use force to take money from a successful person and give it to someone who doesn’t have the work skills and doesn’t want to change and that person will remain on welfare forever.
The libertarians don’t believe that any outcomes should be forced on the society and that the individuals are free as long as they don’t commit aggression against anyone else. They don’t see inequality as a problem as long as it didn’t result from the use force. In that worldview, people are liable for the consequences of their actions and the role of the law and the courts is to stop anyone who uses force against someone’s person or property. People will get the reward the market allocates to them based on the value they provide and people who cannot contribute because of disability will be helped by family, friends, and charity.
The statist worldview depends on the arrogant assumption that government bureaucrats can manage people lives, care for their well being and provide for their children better than they can do for themselves. This world view ignores the fact that these bureaucrats are also people who have their own biases and prejudices and do what they do for their own benefit. The failures of statist solutions are numerous and well documented in the United States such as the new deal, the great society, and Obamacare but these failed programs never get canceled because they serve the needs of politicians to maintain a voter base of government dependent people.
The next time you hear a politician claim that he or she wants to help the people by creating a government-run solution know that he or she wants to help himself or herself get elected.