Fundamentally Freund: Falling out of love with big government

As Tevye the Milkman might very well have put it, “May G-d bless and keep Big Government far away from us.”

Barack Obama with wife at Ohio rally 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque )
Barack Obama with wife at Ohio rally 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque )
These are heady days for the Jewish love affair with Big Government.
In the United States, polls continue to show that a majority of Jews plan to vote for incumbent Barack Obama in November even as he aims to expand the size and reach of government to unprecedented levels.
And here in the Jewish state, the largest coalition in Israel’s modern history presides over a mammoth administration that comprises a whopping 30 government ministries.
Despite being a tiny country, we are nonetheless “blessed” with the public service of three vice prime ministers, four deputy prime ministers, four ministers-without- portfolio and seven deputy ministers to boot.
Clearly, there are many Jews who simply cannot get enough of government, cheering on its enlargement like a roll of challah bread swelling in the oven.
Indeed, more than a few seem to think that the larger the ruling leviathan, the better off society will be, as though adding more paper-pushers and layers of regulation are a form of salve for all of our collective ills. But I am not among them, and I cannot help but shake my head in wonder at the reckless Jewish romance with the obesity of officialdom.
It is time to break off this feckless fling, which threatens to strip us of any sense of personal accountability and drown us all in a burgeoning sea of statism and red tape.
Given the vagaries of Jewish history, the allure of big government is of course somewhat understandable. After all, as a nation we spent more time in exile than we did as autonomous rulers in our own land. So it is only natural that now that we have finally regained our political sovereignty, we would seek to exercise it as widely as possible.
BUT THE result has been painfully expensive and inefficient, siphoning off untold resources and strangling the ingenuity and entrepreneurial drive of the nation.
Consider the following. Three months ago, Finance Ministry director of wages Ilan Levin had this to say to Haaretz: “I don’t sleep at night.” The reason for Levin’s insomnia was the salary disparities that exist in the public sector, where a social worker might earn NIS 13,000 a month but a forklift operator at one of Israel’s government- run ports grosses almost NIS 40,000.
“There’s no logic or justice in the public sector,” Levin admitted, adding that “wages are set based on each institution’s power.”
The absurdity of a fork-lift operator making three times as much as a dedicated social-worker is the kind of inane inequality that only government-gone-wild can produce.
Free of the constraints that private-sector firms face, publicly- run outfits inevitably produce waste and inefficiencies that would not be tolerated anywhere else.
Moreover, the very idea that the warm embrace of big government can alleviate privation and need is nothing more than an empty misconception.
Israel has an extensive social-safety network, one that pours billions of shekels into well-meaning attempts to assist the weaker sectors of society. And yet, at the beginning of May, the Finance Ministry revealed that Israel is second only to Mexico in poverty rates among member countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
This underlines the fact that throwing public money at problems or adding additional government departments or ministries might make us all feel better, as though we are “doing something,” but that does not in any way mean that something is truly being accomplished.
Just the opposite is true. It is precisely because of the ingrained socialist mentality that the government will solve all of our problems that Israel’s philanthropic sector remains in its infancy.
PEOPLE HAVE come to view social problems such as poverty alleviation as being the preserve of government, rather than a matter that each of us must do something about. This is not only counterproductive, but it is antithetical to Jewish values as well.
The fact is that by falling in love with larger government, we have crafted a gargantuan edifice that is increasingly unwieldy and which is failing us in a variety of fields, from health to education to welfare.
It is time we fall out of love with big government and realize that cutting it down to size and making room for the private sector to flourish is the key to future prosperity for all. However tempting it might be, a burgeoning government system will not bring us closer to achieving a more fair or just society.
With the establishment of Israel in 1948, we brought an end to 1,878 years of powerlessness. Let’s stop trying to make up for that long stretch by giving our government too much power and scope.
As Tevye the Milkman might very well have put it, “May G-d bless and keep Big Government far away from us.”