Posted in Shameless Self-Promotion by William Voegeli
"Conservatives would do well, by their cause and their country, to emphasize that the fact that a historical pattern is predominant — modern economies grow steadily, and their welfare states grow even faster — doesn’t make it right or wise. As a nation grows richer, it should at some point begin to devote a decreasing rather than increasing portion of its GDP to welfare-state spending."
In emphasizing this point--that it is not right for the welfare state to grow just because the economy has grown--how will conservatives respond to the the obvious counterpoint (given the current mess in our economy) that our economy is now shrinking? I like what you say here but it does, in a sense, seem a bit like fighting the last rhetorical war. It does not feel like we are growing richer . . .
But one way to accomplish the argument against growing the welfare state--either in good times or in bad--may be to emphasize the kind of character such programs in themselves and (what may be worse) the expectation of such programs produces. The dependent, grasping citizen (at the margins and not, of course, those who are in real need) can be shown to be the new face of greed. The "greedy" 80s (as lefties were pleased to call them) we might say will have nothing on the coming decades when a new generation of freshly minted and entitled "elderly" come nudging and pushing their way toward the federal tits. I think the reason that the welfare reform of the 90s was successful--to the extent that it was successful--had more to do with arguments of this kind. Asking people to reflect hard about the sort of people they wanted to call their friends and fellow citizens and (then, by implication) what sort of people did THEY themselves wish to be might be a smart way to proceed. Such arguments, however, should be marshaled and supported with facts such as those you so clearly present.
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