Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Liberal Compassion?

One of my very favorite publications is Imprimis which is published and distributed by Hillsdale College.  It's a brilliant write every time.

Some nuggets from the October 2014 issue, "The Case Against Liberal Compassion" by William Voegeli which can be read in its entirety here.

In 2013 the federal government spent $2.279 trillion --- $7200 per American, two-thirds of all federal outlays, and 14 percent of Gross Domestic Product --- on the five big program areas that make up our welfare state: 1. Social Security; 2. All other income support programs, such as disability insurance or unemployment compensation; 3. Medicare;, 4. All other health programs, such as Medicaid; and 5. All programs for education, job training, and social services.
All along, while the welfare state was growing constantly, liberals were insisting constantly it wasn't big enough or growing fast enough.  So I wondered, five years ago, whether there is a Platonic ideal when it comes to the size of the welfare state -- whether there is a point at which the welfare state has all the money, programs, personnel, and political support it needs, thereby rendering any further additions pointless.  The answer I concluded, is that there is no answer -- the welfare state is a permanent work-in-progress, and its liberal advocates believe that however many resources it has, it always needs a great deal more.
Why do liberals feel that no matter how much we're doing through government programs to alleviate prevent poverty, whatever we are doing is shamefully inadequate?
...each new iteration of the liberal project is one more paving stone on the road to serfdom.
Maybe they're too shrewd to admit that ever-bigger government is what they seek above all else.  Or maybe they don't realize that's what they're up to.
Well, if liberalism is the politics of kindness, it follows that its adversary, conservatism, is the politics of cruelty, greed, and callousness.  Liberals have never been reluctant to connect those dots.
Republican Mitch Daniels: "I argue to my most liberal friends: 'You ought to be the most offended of anybody if a dollar that could help a poor person is being squandered in some way.' And," the governor added slyly, "some of them actually agree." --- The clear implication -- that many liberals are not especially troubled if government dollars that could help poor people are squandered -- strikes me as true, interesting and important.  Given that liberals are people who: 1) have built a welfare state that is now the biggest thing government does in America; and 2) want to regard themselves and be regarded by others as compassionate empathizers determined to alleviate suffering, it should follow that nothing would preoccupy them more than making sure the welfare state machine is functioning at maximum efficiency.  When it isn't, after all, the sacred mission of alleviating preventable suffering is inevitably degraded.
For inflation-adjusted, per capita federal welfare state spending to increase by 254 percent from 1977 to 2013, without correspondingly dramatic reduction in poverty, and for liberals to react to this phenomenon by taking the position that our welfare state's only real defect is that it is insufficiently generous, rather than insufficiently effective...
The problem with liberalism may be that no one knows how to get the government to do the benevolent things liberals want it to do.  Or it may be, at least in some cases, that it just isn't possible for the government to bring about what liberals want it to accomplish. 
 Thank you, Hillsdale.

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