Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Conservative Case for the Welfare State?

It is really hard to believe that Bruce Bartlett once worked for Ron Paul. And friends tell me he was a pretty solid libertarian. Things have changed.

BB is out today in NYT making the "conservative" case for the welfare state:
[...]Republicans are now using the fiscal impasse to try to raise the age for Medicare and reduce Social Security benefits by changing the index used to adjust them for inflation. They know that such programs will be easier to abolish in the future if the number of people who qualify can be reduced and benefits are cut so that privatization becomes more attractive.
This is foolish and reactionary. Moreover, there are sound reasons why a conservative would support a welfare state. Historically, it has been conservatives like the 19th century chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck, who established the welfare state in Europe. They did so because masses of poor people create social instability and become breeding grounds for radical movements.
In postwar Europe, conservative parties were the principal supporters of welfare-state policies in order to counter efforts by socialists and communists to abolish capitalism altogether. The welfare state was devised to shave off the rough edges of capitalism and make it sustainable. Indeed, the conservative icon Winston Churchill was among the founders of the British welfare state.

BB may be correct here in the sense that, to many conservatives, Winston Churchill may be an icon (See Ralph Raico on the horror that was Churchill). But, it can certainly be pointed out that other conservatives, specifically the Old Right were as anti-welfare state as you could get. Here's Murray Rothbard on the Old Right and the many who viewed the precursor to the all-out welfare state, the New Deal, as a dangerous doings (my emphasis):
The Old, original, Right realized the horrors of the New Deal and predicted the collectivist road on which it was setting the nation. The Old Right was a coalition of ideologies and forces that did not have one single, common, positive program, but "negatively" it was solidly united: all opposed the New Deal and were committed to its total repeal and abolition – lock, stock, and barrel. The fact that its unity was "negative" did not make it any less strong or cohesive: for there was total agreement on rolling back this collective excrescence and on restoring the Old Republic, the true America.

The Old Right coalition consisted of the following elements. Most "extreme" were the libertarian and individualist writers and intellectuals: H. L. Mencken, Albert Jay Nock, Rose Wilder Lane, Garet Garrett, all people who had resisted what they believed to be the mounting statism of the Republican regime of the 1920s and who called for an ultraminimal government that would have rolled back the statism of the Progressive period, the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, and perhaps the judicial despotism of Chief Justice John Marshal Next came now virtually forgotten remnants of the conservative, states' rights Democrats of the nineteenth century, largely from the South, whose views were almost as libertarian as the first group's. These men were led by Governor Albert Ritchie of Maryland, who was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1932, and Senator James A. Reed from Missouri. The third group consisted of conservative Republicans who were outraged at New Deal democracy and who largely came from the Midwest. Former Progressives and statists, who believed that the New Deal was going much too far, formed the final group; its leader was former President Herbert Hoover, who, though he had launched many New Deal measures in microcosm in his own administration, denounced the New Deal for going too far into "fascism." It was the first group that set the tone, since individualist and libertarian rhetoric provided the only general concepts with which New Deal measures could be opposed. The result, however, was that hack Republican politicians found themselves mouthing libertarian and antistatist slogans that they did not really believe – a condition that set the stage for a later "moderation" and abandonment of their seemingly cherished principles.

Unity in our hostility and hatreds, however, combined with diversity of positive principle, had a healthy effect on the Old Right. It meant that we could unite and act together in denouncing and moving against the New Deal enemy, while disagreeing and arguing in friendly fashion among ourselves about the kind of America we would ultimately like to achieve[...]In those days, it was a pleasure to pore over the voting records of right-wing Republicans in Congress, especially in the harder-core House, for the common garden-variety rightists of the pre-1955 era make the most right-wing congressmen today seem impossibly leftist and socialistic. My two favorite congressmen were Howard Buffett of Nebraska and Frederick C. Smith of Ohio, both of whom would invariably draw "zero" ratings from the Americans for Democratic Action and other leftist groups.
Thus, the cherry-picking by BB of Churchill and Bismark is quite odd.

BB, in his column, goes well beyond what many would consider the welfare state, in the sense of paying those not working and the food stamp program. BB writes favorably and includes under the welfare umbrella Obamacare:
The one area where the United States tops all other countries in terms of health is cost. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent more than any other country – 17.4 percent of gross domestic product on health in 2009, 8.3 percent through government programs such as Medicare and 9.1 percent privately. By contrast, Britain spent only 9.8 percent of G.D.P. on health, 8.2 percent publicly and 1.6 privately.

Thus, for no more than the United States already spends through government, we could have a national health-insurance system equal to that in Britain. The 7.6 percent of G.D.P. difference between American and British total health spending is about equal to the revenue raised by the Social Security tax. So, in effect, having a single-payer health system like Britain’s could theoretically give Americans 7.6 percent of G.D.P. to spend on something else – equivalent to abolishing the payroll tax.

This is a powerful conservative argument for national health insurance.
This is simply bizarre talk from a man who should know better. Current U.S.  healthcare costs are bloated because of the large role government already plays in the sector. He should know that in areas with little regulation, such as the cell phone sector, the personal computer sector and the internet arena, prices fall and quality improves.

If he wasn't before, BB's current column marks him now, for sure, as an advocate of socialist central planning, in favor of all the things that cut at the fabric of countries, distort economies and force people at the barrel of government guns to do things they would not otherwise do. If BB was really honest about where his thinking leads, he would point to other central planners, such as Mao and Stalin, and the tens of millions that died during those regimes.


  1. Another conservative statist in libertarian clothing? I want to be shocked but I'm not. Hell you find this stuff from conservatives in the "immigration" debate. They'll complain about non-state approved people taking from the welfare system but then if you inquiry about getting rid of the welfare system and all other entitlements entirely they look at you like you just shot someone or something.

  2. I wonder how much money he receievd from Soros to sell out?

    1. Ask how much he recieved from Evelyn de Rothschild to drive the middle class into a welfare state. Then the upper middle class, on and on, up the ladder.
      Misdirected anger is the footsoldier of despots.

  3. Everything is bloated, since bought government cleared streams, including trillions in citizen held deposits and counterfeited cash, to untaxed cpi inflators against lower revenues and wages. Tax breaks, deregulation, and Fed(citizen) generated flood, outpriced, outsourced, welfare recipients, draw on the high percentage, taxed middle and upper middle class's tax burden. That serves perfectly well to further distress the m./u.m.class and expose their earned held property to the usurpation BY the untaxed, remotely positioned racketeers. Those who have bought away taxes, and regulations from their equity streams which siphon money out of the economy. Beauty IS it is (Fed)fueled by the racketeered, dispositioned and stressed taxed, and too poor to be taxed, citizens.
    It is pathetic that such enormous torrents of capital pass right by "conservatives," who are "conservative" in preserving the liquidity of citizen earned and Fed pirated/inflated wealth to intlernational gangsters. Posturing and finally acquiescing to feed welfare mothers distracts, few from international banker's sticky, disgusting fingers, usurping our property. The working, educated, productive taxpayer, once still in allegiance to these "conservatives" is now this bone thrower's worst enemy.

  4. Another "conservative" who wants to tell me how to spend my money.

  5. May as well just call this the socialist case for the welfare state.
    What in god's name is conservative about anything Bartlett said?

  6. Next up - McArdle's libertarian case for the welfare state?

  7. You folks are beautiful. Yeah, right, those libs/liberts are creating legions of taxed, outpriced, outsourced, starved poor, yessiree. They are just ruining the world economy by their enormous burden.lmao
    They are clueless to whom they sign their allegiance. Certainly they cherry pick what Constitutional protections they wish engaged.
    And from now on we officially will refer to the economic treason of tax favoring, deregulating and citizenfunding(Fed/cental bank robbery,) international gangsters, as "conservative." Got it.
    I just spoke with an Albanian immigrant who could not celebrate Christmas for 45 years. If you can find any citizens, NOT TYRANTS, that imposed this on their OWN socialist state, or communist state, I'm sure you could find one that also fights to give up all to property usurping fascist international despots, intentionally. That would be one dumbed down, unarmed, robbed blind, libertarian, who unknowingly and righteously, created money and power streams to despotic gangsters.
    ps These "conservatives" don't tell us how to spend our money. They just force huge% of tax burden and high inflation on our earnings while using our savings(reduced to pennies>Fed floods)to keep inflation in debt mode. We THEN are angered with paying to support the intl.gangster's victims. See, we are told they are "job creators", not money and debt manipulators.
    Do not worry they will never tell YOU how to spend your crumbs while you are in a Stockholm Syndrome fixated state watching your portfolio. You keep footsoldiering until holdings not keeping up with taxes and inflation, get played into "garbage." By the way, no one listens to anyone who offers no support for citizens, in the name of Libertarianism. That is just basically sick, at this point in civilization. True Libertarians must realize that by eliminating OUR government protections, we empower those already weighted to usurp our rights and property. Naturally billionaire banker/tradercorp interest wishes for small government's ineffectual protections that rely on consumer deaths to steer market demand, instead of regulations to lurch productivity and innovation out of the wallow of the effects of sloth and greed. Libertarians would never come near forming a logical rationalization for letting billionaires starve populations(done), then either killing them off or react to a bloody revolt. We are way beyond such subjugation and reactionism from uncontrolled megalomaniacal market scourges. We wish to regulate the revolt carnage at tractable levels. OUR tractable levels. Why on earth are we still deciding how much we should empower such malignancy?

    1. Like most Statist/Progressives where you go off the rails is your assumption that the corporatocracy wants anything the Libertarian community is offering. If they did we would've been there long ago. Do you really think they want a weak government that can't protect their interests all the way to going to war for them? The Progressive state is a powerful tool for them. Why on earth would they want to throw that away? Progressive government didn't happen because the people wanted it, it happened because the industrialists of the day wanted it and you can bet that those running today's largest corporations want it too. Sure, they want someone else to pay for it if they can, but give it up, are you kidding? Most of these large corps would be a fraction of their size without the progressive welfare/warfare state. They are smart enough to understand that.

  8. What a charade!

    Bartlett cloaks unambiguous and easily understood falsehoods in 'economist-ese' while displaying his diploma in 'appeal-to-authority' fashion.

    Precisely what is Bartlett saying, here? He is saying that the institutionalized practice of expropriating the proceeds of productive work for the purpose of redistributing to the needy ipso-facto expands the general level of prosperity!!!

    He is saying that if you made a habit of taking money from the richer of your immediate neighbors, that both you AND the neighbors would be richer - in real terms (i.e. in terms of the stuff you would use the money to buy).

    His proposal is that if you have cake you should eat it - because then your hunger will be satisfied and you will still have your cake...

    He is saying you can have your cake and eat it too.

    The reality, as even my pre-school age children understood, is that when you make a practice of taking others' toys, no one gets much playing done. Instead they are always fighting over toys.

    The reality is the opposite of what Bartlett asserts. In establishing any forced redistribution scheme, to include the Welfare State, the expropriat-ees subsequently devote an increasing portion of their productive abilities to preventing expropriation. Since they have only a limited lifetime to devote to production, the portion diverted to self-protection necessarily reduces their productivity. The Expropriator must then expand his own capabilities - which means he has to collect a greater percentage to engage in this arms-race with his victims.

    And finally, the often-overlooked recipient of the expropriated 'welfare' then loses the incentive to produce what they can. Work is a lot of work, after all. Why expend the effort when the result of not working is the same?

    1. Bartlett is issuing a warning to all of you greedy bastards out there...... he's telling you that our current economic model is unsustainable and you had better have your gates closed tightly.

      Yep, it's class warfare.
      Finally being fought on two sides.

  9. I'm not really sure what 'horrors' you're talking about.

    The American medical complex charges double for goods and services in comparison to other countries. The most plausible way to get around this is simply giving the US government buying power to push prices down -- every other country does this.

    Why do you want doctors to make twice as much? This is not liberty.

  10. The medical industrial complex charges twice as much for goods and services in the United States than anywhere else. For the most part, this is a result of government intervention on the supply side.

    The only practical way around this is for the US government to use its monopsony buying power to push down prices.

    Doctors and the medical industry make a ton of money -- push their prices down, save money, and care quality still stays the same.

    1. Not true at all. If the US were to end monopolistic protections of medical and insurance providers, end bans on reimportations of drugs, and cease cost shifting via Medicare and Medicaid, prices would drop precipitously.

      It is rather unbelievable that your solution to the problem is to give more power to the ONE ENTITY that caused the problem.

      Europe leaches off of US biomedical research. Ending reimportation bans would force normalization of pricing. Or the US government could do their "job" (if we really want to call it that) and make it clear to Europe that if they violate American IP for drugs and devices that bombs will fall. How bout them apples statist?