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Should Conservatives Oppose a Welfare State? Why Charles Krauthammer is Correct and Andy McCarthy is Wrong


So, by implication, if one accepts McCarthy’s argument, conservatives should not only be arguing against Obamacare and against new entitlements, but to repeal the New Deal-era laws as well. Krauthammer argues, I think, that even those who supported the original programs can be made to see, through empirical evidence as he did himself, that the current programs create something that cannot be sustained. To those who accept Krauthammer’s logic, as I do, it is more than foolish to argue that all the old New Deal programs “are frauds designed to create permanent dependency on government.” Indeed, FDR said as much, when he pointed out that Social Security was not meant to be a welfare program that would create dependency. One can agree with Roosevelt and not see a welfare state as “a betrayal of our constitutional traditions,” as McCarthy does.

Indeed, as William F. Buckley Jr. said in 2001, conservatives “need to make prudent accommodations. What conservatives are going to have to get used to is that certain fights we have waged are, quite simply, lost. It is fine, in our little seminars, to make the case against a federal Social Security system, but it pays to remind ourselves that nobody outside the walls of that classroom is going to pay much attention to our Platonic exercises." So I ask Andy, does he really want to make Social Security a political issue in this new century?

This brings me to what I regard as one of the most important books written by a conservative writer, Bill Voegeli’s Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State. The author addresses these very issues, from a philosophical standpoint buttressed by tough economic analysis.

Only libertarians, Voegli writes, “view discussions about how conservatism makes its peace with the welfare state’s permanence as a betrayal of the imperative to protect liberty by limiting government.” Such a hardline position, he argues, encourages futility, to the exclusion of acting in order to be politically consequential.