Government as Santa

By JOSEPH G. LEHMAN | Dec. 25, 2012 |

(Editor’s note: A version of this commentary appears in the Winter 2011 issue of Impact, the Mackinac Center’s quarterly newsletter.)

Why is it that most people eventually abandon the idea of Santa Claus … and yet so many never abandon belief in an omnipotent government?

Santa Claus is magic. His toy sack never empties, he traverses the globe faster than lightning, his reindeer never tire, his elves never strike, and he’s never too fat for the chimney. Awed by his powers, young kids approach the Jolly One clutching wish lists that itemize the objects of their “unbridled avarice,” as a popular Christmas movie put it.

And why not? Santa’s little supplicants are prodded by plenty of parental encouragement. No toy is beyond the ability of Santa’s elves to build. Nothing Santa gives to one child takes away from what he can give to any other child. Plus, Santa knows who’s been naughty or nice, so the great toy distribution is bound to be fair in some cosmically satisfying way, with everyone getting what they deserve and probably a little bit more. Who wouldn’t want to live in such a world?

Too many adults treat government the way kids treat Santa. But government is not magic.

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