“When a man in office lays out a dollar in extravagance,” declared President Grover Cleveland, “he acts immorally by the people.”
Politicians up until the time of Grover Cleveland were probably just as corrupt as they are today--it's just that they understood that the Constitution placed limits on the federal government. This perspective changed dramatically with Teddy Roosevelt, who said inane stuff like
...every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require itIt got worse with Herbert Hoover. The proper role of government was dealt a low blow by government's causing of the Great Depression, and it has been on life support since FDR invented the "Living Constitution".
The story of Grover Cleveland and the 1887 Texas Seed Bill, however, reminds us not only that people can be far more successfully charitable than can government, but also that people actually were consistently that way once upon a time in America.
When a bill came across President Cleveland's desk with the intent of having the federal government purchase seed grain for farmers in Texas during a severe drought, the President said
I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution; and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadily resisted...
the friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied on to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among out people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.
As it turned out, Cleveland's trust in the American spirit was not misplaced. Private individuals and organizations donated far more than the federal government had planned to allocate for seed grain in Texas.
Once upon a time, such ingenuity and charity were prevalent in America. Surprisingly, despite our overweening federal government, there is still a great amount of charity in the United States. Unfortunately, though, American charity is disappearing, being regularly overshadowed by government social programs, which are invariably far more expensive, far less successful, and fraught with graft and other forms of extravagant corruption.
Federal government social programs have demonstrated time and again that they cause far more harm than good. They destroy family. They destroy community. Once upon a time in America, our leaders understood this fundamental concept. It is a sad indictment of our society that we now regularly elect charlatan "ancients" and "princes" who aggrandize themselves by "grinding on the faces of the poor."