Emery: on democracy
August 11, 2006

Prosperity or Dependency

by Missouri Rep. Ed Emery
(R-126 including the counties of Barton, Dade, Jasper and Polk)

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy…” Alexander Tyler, 1787

Alexander Tyler’s observation explains why America’s founding fathers chose a Republic rather than a democracy for America. However, our latest budget shows how far we have strayed. Missouri’s 2007 state budget of 20.8 billion dollars is the largest in our history. That seems contrary to reports you occasionally hear about “slashed” state funding.

If Alexander Tyler were alive today, be would say - I told you so. And his reference could be about the growth of both state and federal budgets. I did not calculate the federal numbers, but over half of your state taxes are paid solely because we have discovered how to vote ourselves “benefits from the public treasury.”

A look back to the earliest days of our republic demonstrates that of our $20.8 Billion budget, only 8% ($1.7 billion) goes to fundamental duties of government – Corrections & Public Safety. Another 3.5% ($0.7 billion) funds the Judiciary and elected officials. Together these pay for everything that is an undisputed expense of our constitutional republic. These items are funded with a mere 11.5% of the state budget, approximately 2.4 billion dollars.

Missouri’s constitutionally mandated education funding accounts for an additional 35.2% ($7.3 billion). Therefore, a full 53%, over eleven billion dollars is because we have learned we can vote gifts from the public treasury. As alarming as that may be, it is the trend that absolutely proves the truth of Alexander Tyler’s declaration. If the trends of the last 20 years continue, Missouri’s budget would about double every 15 years which is unsustainable.

We have devolved from independence to being dependent upon government programs to remove every risk and reimburse every consequence. The most discouraging element of this entire scenario is that the requests for new programs and social securities continue to pour in. However, some taxpayers are discovering that the public treasury has limits and human need does not. Momentum is building to reform the role of government. I wish there were a clear and simple solution, but we have not found it; at least not where we have been looking. I sometimes wonder if we have tried to supplant God long enough that he has finally turned us over to our own devices.

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