The Welfare State

David Frum defends the welfare state:

We should remember why the immediate post-Depression generations created so many social-welfare programs. They were not motivated only — or even primarily — by “compassion.” They were motivated as well by the desire for stability.

Social Security, unemployment insurance and other benefits were designed as anti-Depression defenses, “automatic stabilizers” as economists called them. When people lost their jobs, their incomes did not drop by 100 percent, but by 30 percent or 40 percent: they could continue to pay rent, buy food and sustain society’s overall level of demand for goods and services.

Students of political rhetoric, note how the architect of “compassionate conservatism” has now decided (realized?) that the better rhetorical strategy for legitimating a policy in the eyes of American conservatives is to try to distance it from “compassion.” It’s just about economic stability, you see.

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