As Ronald Reagan once observed, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'"
Much of that help is unwanted and unsolicited, much of it ineffective, much of it counterproductive and too much of it unconstitutional. It always comes with strings attached, and little by little the strings bind us down until we no longer are free.
Take the 1998 tobacco settlement. It was a variation of the same old "public interest" scam our governmental guardians have pulled on us before. We'd protested in the past that we didn't want our taxes raised and our freedoms restricted -- only to be told it was for our own good.
But the tobacco settlement was different, because it wasn't supposed to cost us anything. Like the state lotteries that have sprung up all over the country, often touted as a way to help support school systems, the tobacco settlement was supposed to provide funds for a worthwhile goal at no cost to the taxpayer.
Unfortunately, the money has gone elsewhere to pay for programs the government failed to fund appropriately.
Of the $25 billion the states collected this year in tobacco settlement funds and tobacco taxes, 2.3 percent ($567.5 million) was spent on tobacco prevention and cessation programs for which the money was ostensibly intended. West Virginia spent $6.9 million on such programs, less than 24 percent of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
Where did the rest go? That's hard to say on a state-by-state basis. It is safe to assume it didn't go to reduce your taxes.
One thing is certain: Free people do not want governments with an independent source of revenue, because a government not dependent on the people will not answer to the people. And a government that no longer answers to the people will soon have the people dominated by that government.
As Reagan also commented: "We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around." Let's make it our New Year's resolution to keep it that way.