Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - After the Welfare State - Opinion: After the Welfare State


That crashing sound you hear? It's the sound of welfare states in collapse. From Albany to Athens, all but the dimmest observers now recognize that the model we've been following has run aground—morally, socially and fiscally. Less clear is what's going to replace it.

Today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan gives a hint at the possibilities. Over the next few weeks, the Beltway will consume itself defending or defenestrating his numbers and projections. Yet Mr. Ryan's budget is less about dollars and cents than the assumption behind them: that the best way to help Americans is to increase their access to the market rather than try to shield them from it.

Alas, bringing the middle classes into government programs has been a key aim of the social democratic state. We all know that has helped raise the financial costs to levels we can no longer afford. The moral and social price of expanding government, however, has been even more costly.

Ironically, in their obsession with government, American liberals continue to overlook their greatest strength: their ability to set goals for our society. Whether it be increasing access to good housing, a dignified retirement, or a decent education for every child, liberals have won most of the arguments.

What conservatives like Mr. Ryan and Mr. Levin offer here is a better "how"—a road map that lets us balance our care for fellow citizens without wrecking the economy, ruining families, or giving birth to more soulless bureaucracies.

Liberals tend to oppose even these improvements. Sadly, they've become wed to the welfare state's most debilitating premise—that the sole provider for some of the most important goods and services must be the most inefficient institution in American life: the government.




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