We have become addicted to funding. “We” means you and I, the People. “We” means school districts. “We” means town and county governments.

Perhaps there existed a time in the distant past in which federal and state funding for certain activities and goals was a reasonable idea. But those days are long gone. Reasonableness no longer exists in the tortured caverns of federal and state grants, aid and subsidies.

We the People and they the state and federal governments have forgotten some very important truths and have embraced some very dangerous assumptions. We have forgotten that the money the government spends and extends is ours in the first place. We have assumed when we receive funding from the big government guys that it is somehow “free.” It’s not.

They assume they have the right to tell us what to do and to limit our liberty when they send money our way. They don’t.

Federal and state money comes with strings. It forges chains. It shackles freedom. It destroys choice for communities and for individuals. It results in the inefficiency of a distant — but powerful — bureaucracy. It results in the foolishness and unreasonableness of one-size-fits-all approaches to unique community situations. It dashes creative solutions on the rocks of cookie-cutter approaches.

Funding has become force. Grants and state aid have become weaponized as tools of manipulation to sculpt society into the society that THEY want, and we can be certain that the society they are sculpting will be a less free and a more dependent one.

How do we break the addiction and free ourselves from the chains that governmental funding has forged? It will not be an easy escape. Pain will be involved. But we must maneuver through the cavern we willingly entered and seek the way out.

We must acknowledge that funding is not neutral. It involves loss of local and personal sovereignty. We need to start questioning ourselves, our school boards and our town and county officials about the funding streams pursued and relied on.

We need to start pointing out the damage that is being done by such reliance. We must reframe how we view political success. Let’s be honest, the average American citizen is prone to believe an elected official is successful if that official “brings home the bacon.” The time has come to think differently about what we expect from our elected officials. Let’s start expecting that they secure our liberties.

We have drifted far, far away from our ancient moorings. But now, as then, the answer is freedom. The solution is not more government, but less.

(Brenda Hanson lives in Delevan.)

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