Gov. Gary Herbert must soon decide whether to expand Medicaid in Utah. Granted, it’s Christmas time, that beloved time of giving. But something has run amok with our giving. Our government, in its assumed benevolence, has decided, once again, to make charity mandatory and the advocates are cheering. These proponents seem to have charity confused with taxes. They seem to have forgotten that the government has no money of its own and that when it gives a dollar, that dollar has been taken from someone else’s pocket.

In the early 1800s, Frenchman Alexis de Toqueville observed, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Surely, that is what is happening today as we see part of the public being bribed with money taken from another part of the public.

A recent letter to the editor by a kind and caring person quoted the story of the Good Samaritan and said we should all behave likewise. I agree completely! But don’t you think in today’s distorted view, one might expect a government employee to show up, take the injured person to an inn where he could not be refused care, and then bill the government for the victim’s convalescence? Where is the spirit of giving in such a situation?

Many in government seem to be drunk with their power to fix everything by throwing money — our money — at it. Where is the line between personal responsibility and expectation of having others take care of you? This is not a “have” versus a “have-not” battle. Recently, patients at a free health clinic objected to sharing the clinic with the homeless because they felt themselves so much above the lowly homeless. Pride and expectations can cloud the real issue of giving and receiving.

On a brighter note, private charity and giving are alive and well. One has only to see the shoppers emptying the shelves of the toy stores or the giving at the bell ringers’ stations to know we care and want to help. But allow us to choose where and when we give.

Yesterday, I gave a few dollars to a person whose story seemed improbable, but, for the price, it gave me a “warm fuzzy.” I ask to choose what I will give and not have the government take it from me. I ask to decide how my hard-earned money will be given to others. That way, all of my gift will actually make it to the needy person instead of largely going to fund government administration of my money.

Our governor is under pressure to add more than 160,000 people to the Medicaid rolls of Utah via the federal endorsed expansion. Do many need help? Yes, but a critical factor is from where that help will come. “It is free money from the government,” some will argue. In fact, if the money, through Medicaid expansion, comes from the government, it will be taken from others, essentially forced charity. A huge portion will have gone for administration. If we choose Medicaid expansion, we will go one step farther down the road to total dependence on the government. That road is a one-way street and leads to a dead end.

This Christmas season, let us choose to be generous. Let us choose to share with those around us, especially the less fortunate. We will feel the true spirit of giving and of Christmas, a feeling we can’t expect from government-engineered “charity” (i.e. Medicaid expansion).

Allen Christensen is a Republican state senator from North Ogden and chairs the Social Services Appropriations Committee for the Utah Senate.