Big Brother Meddles Too Much

What is the purpose of government anyway? Traditionally, the philosophy of government in our democracy was to provide for the national security and promote the general welfare. But in the middle of the Johnson administration, the primary purpose of our federal government changed from national security and promoting the general welfare to income redistribution. One facet of income redistribution is the income transfer payment, which now comprises the number one function of our federal government in terms of cost. This shift in governmental priorities emerged in the middle of Johnson’s “Great Society” amongst the multitude of programs that were spawned in those days. Such programs are now commonly referred to as entitlement programs.

Now that entitlement programs have become a major priority of our federal government, an appropriate question is, “What kind of limit must be put on such programs?” Imposing limits on entitlement programs is a difficult political endeavor, mostly because so many political entities have their trunks in the trough. Staying with the zoological metaphor, the agricultural industry can probably be characterized as the trough bully. Everyone is for cutbacks or at least ceilings on entitlement distributions until such measures affect their own pockets. An example is the farmer who protested vigorously as to the evils of the food stamp program as he goes down to collect his Payment-in-Kind (P.I.K.) payment. The popular conception is that such government distributions are okay for the recipient but not for the “other guy”.

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Earl Butz, Big Brother Meddles Too Much, 20 Gonz. L. Rev. 669 (1985).

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