18 Jul 2011

Another Good-Bye to the Past-War Welfare State Model

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Noemie Emery, in the American Spectator, is a bit too kind, I think, to the creators of the Welfare State, but she correctly identifies the fallacy of promoting wishes into rights. Authentic rights are always take the form “shall not do to you, or shall not stop you.” Legitimate rights are simply negatives commandments to violations of person, property, or liberty. Positive rights are a blank check written on someone else’s account.

The intentions of Democrats are only the best. They want all of the old to have lavish retirements, all of the young to have scholarships, verse-penning cowboys to have festivals funded by government, and everyone to have access to all the best health care, at no cost to himself. In the face of a huge wave of debt swamping all western nations, this is the core of their argument: They want a fair society, and their critics do not; they want to help, and their opponents like to see people suffer; they want a world filled with love and caring, and their opponents want one of callous indifference, in which the helpless must fend for themselves. (“We must reject both extremes, those who say we shouldn’t help the old and the sick and those who say that we should,” quips the New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg.) But in fact, everyone thinks that we “should” do this; the problem, in the face of the debt crisis, is finding a way that we can. It is about the “can” part that the left is now in denial: daintily picking its way through canaries six deep on the floor of the coal mine, and conflating a “good” with a “right.

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