Enough is enough
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:57 AMThe latest Commentary — not yet posted online — includes Yuval Levin’s review of William Voegeli’s book Never Enough, which highlights the sad fact that advocates of America’s welfare state never will be satisfied that it’s just the right size.
Levin quibbles a bit with Voegeli’s focus on the welfare state’s size, but generally praises the author’s attention to a more critical issue:
[W]hat the welfare state requires is not so much a limiting principle as an organizational principle — … what it lacks is a clear purpose that would help distinguish its proper from its improper uses. Lacking a well-defined purpose, it simply grows from more to more. The last successfully conservative reform of a major government program — the welfare reform of 1996 — was driven by this insight. Rather than determine how large the welfare system should be, champions of that reform sought to define what that system should do.
The aim of a welfare system, simply put should be to help the needy. Our government, Voegeli says, has come to offer public benefits largely to people who do not need much help — older middle-class beneficiaries of Social Security and Medicare. It should instead provide help only to the poor, on a means-tested sliding scale. The welfare state should be a safety net, not an all-encompassing web of rules and benefits spun by a vast spiderous bureaucracy.
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