Filed under: Capitalism, Conservatism, Economy, Freedom, Heartwarming, Socialism, The United States | Tags: Advancing Social Welfare, How Do You Pay For It?, With the Free Market
The socialist dream of organizing an economy around the purpose of advancing social welfare, as it is governmentally determined and meted out, seems destined to remain an abstraction irrelevant to the world’s political and economic needs. One strange result of the collapse of socialism, and the absence of any other credible way to avoid relying on markets is that the welfare state is heavily dependent on the health of capitalism. The government cannot disburse wealth that never gets created, and creating the wealth required for modern, prosperous societies without the knowledge conveyed by prices set in markets appears to be impossible.
The liberal response to the question of paying for the welfare state has been a protracted exercise in intellectual dishonesty, borne of a conviction that the question doesn’t need to be answered if it can be made to go away. Liberals have generally been happy to tell people what they want to hear. It’s possible to have a big welfare state without worrying all that much about the costs. The programs will pay for themselves. Or an affluent society can pay for them out of the petty cash drawer. Or, the taxes required for a much bigger welfare state are ones that will be borne largely by the very rich and big corporations. None of these propositions can withstand even gentle interrogation, however, making it difficult to know whether the liberals who put them forward are remarkably cynical or remarkably feckless. In either case, whatever political advantages are secured by telling people what they want to hear about paying for the welfare state becomes ever more incoherent.
This splendid excerpt comes from Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State, by William Voegeli. A great Christmas gift for a Conservative friend. Might be too much for a Liberal. It’s also available in paperback, or kindle.
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