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Beware Benevolent Governments

The Philosopher King was benevolent. He reassured his people, speaking kindly to them, “Don’t be afraid! I will take care of you and your little ones.” And the people were deeply reassured and appreciative, and lived and prospered under the wise governance and kind eyes of the Philosopher King.

Except, of course, that in order to receive those assurances, they had to give up their freedom. “We are your servants!” they declared to the Philosopher King, who accepted their entreaties while gently remonstrating, “It’s all good! There is a Master Plan, and I will take care of you.”

We know how this ended. The Philosopher King, Joseph, having centralized all economic planning, having forcibly transferred people around the country, and enslaved all of the Egyptians as well as his own family, created a welfare state, one in which it is the State, not the person, who is the guarantor of all good things. In the fullness of time, those who gave up their freedom for security end up as full-blown slaves to the State.

Ironically, they still have a form of security – and there is a security in being a slave, in being told what to do, in never having to make a decision or take a risk. Welfare states are deeply seductive; we fear responsibility and choices.

But the loss of freedom is absolute, and with the loss of freedom comes a loss in humanity, a deep descent into the mindset of mere serfs, worker ants in a centrally planned machine.

The Torah is telling us about Freedom. And the pernicious dangers of surrendering to governments, no matter how benevolent or wise they might be. The story of Joseph and his family is The Road to Serfdom.

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