How ‘pro­gres­sive poli­cies’ stunt char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

While lib­er­als are cer­tain about the moral su­pe­ri­or­ity of lib­eral poli­cies, the truth is that those poli­cies ac­tu­ally di­min­ish a so­ci­ety’s moral char­ac­ter. Many in­di­vid­ual lib­er­als are fine peo­ple, but the poli­cies they ad­vo­cate tend to make a peo­ple worse. Here are 10 rea­sons: 1. The big­ger the gov­ern­ment, the less the cit­i­zens do for one an­other. If the state will take care of me and my neigh­bors, why should I? This is why West­ern Euro­peans, peo­ple who have lived in wel­fare states far longer than Amer­i­cans have, give less to char­ity and vol­un­teer less time to oth­ers than do Amer­i­cans of the same so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus.

The great­est de­scrip­tion of Amer­i­can civ­i­liza­tion was writ­ten in the early 19th cen­tury by the French­man Alexis de Toc­queville. One of the dif­fer­ences dis­tin­guish­ing Amer­i­cans from Euro­peans that he most mar­veled at was how much Amer­i­cans, through myr­iad as­so­ci­a­tions, took care of one an­other. Un­til Pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt be­gan the seem­ingly in­ex­orable move­ment of Amer­ica to­ward the Euro­pean wel­fare state, vastly ex­panded later by other Demo­cratic pres­i­dents, Amer­i­cans took re­spon­si­bil­ity for one an­other and for them­selves far more than they do to­day. Churches, Ro­tary Clubs, free-loan so­ci­eties and other vol­un­tary as­so­ci­a­tions were ubiq­ui­tous. As the state grew, how­ever, all these as­so­ci­a­tions de­clined. In West­ern Europe, they have vir­tu­ally all dis­ap­peared.

2. The wel­fare state, though of­ten well in­tended, is nev­er­the­less a Ponzi scheme. Con­ser­va­tives have known this for gen­er­a­tions.

But now, any hon­est per­son must ac­knowl­edge it.

The wel­fare state is pred­i­cated on col­lect­ing money from to­day’s work­ers in or­der to pay for those who paid in be­fore them.

But to­day’s work­ers don’t have enough money to sus­tain the scheme, and there are too few of them to do so. As a re­sult, vir­tu­ally ev­ery wel­fare state in Europe, and many Amer­i­can states, like Cal­i­for­nia, are go­ing broke.

3. Cit­i­zens of lib­eral wel­fare states be­come in­creas­ingly nar­cis­sis­tic. The great pre­oc­cu­pa­tions of vast num­bers of Brits, French­men, Ger­mans and other West­ern Euro­peans are how much va­ca­tion time they will have and how early they can re­tire and be sup­ported by the state.

4. The lib­eral wel­fare state makes peo­ple dis­dain work. Amer­i­cans work con­sid­er­ably harder than West­ern Euro­peans, and con­trary to lib­eral thought since Karl Marx, work builds char­ac­ter.

5. Noth­ing more guar­an­tees the ero­sion of char­ac­ter than get­ting some­thing for noth­ing. In the lib­eral wel­fare state, one de­vel­ops an en­ti­tle­ment men­tal­ity, an­other ex­pres­sion of nar­cis­sism. And the rhetoric of lib­er­al­ism, la­bel­ing each new en­ti­tle­ment a “right”, re­in­forces this sense of en­ti­tle­ment.

6. The big­ger the gov­ern­ment, the more the corruption. As the fa­mous tru­ism goes, “Power tends to cor­rupt, and ab­so­lute power cor­rupts ab­so­lutely.” Of course, big busi­nesses are also of­ten cor­rupt. But they are even­tu­ally caught or go out of busi­ness. The gov­ern­ment can­not go out of busi­ness. And un­like cor­rupt gov­ern­ments, cor­rupt busi­nesses can­not print money and thereby de­value a nation’s cur­rency, and they can­not ar­rest you.

7. The wel­fare state cor­rupts fam­ily life. Even many Democrats have ac­knowl­edged the de­struc­tive con­se­quences of the wel­fare state on the un­der­class. It has ren­dered vast num­bers of males un­nec­es­sary to fe­males, who have looked to the state to sup­port them and their chil­dren (and the more chil­dren, the more state sup­port) rather than to hus­bands. In ef­fect, these women took the state as their hus­band.

8. The wel­fare state in­hibits the mat­u­ra­tion of its young cit­i­zens into re­spon­si­ble adults. As re­gards men specif­i­cally, I was raised, as were all gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­can men be­fore me, to as­pire to work hard in or­der to marry and sup­port a wife and chil­dren. No more. One of the rea­sons many sin­gle women lament the preva­lence of boy-men, men who have not grown up, is that the lib­eral state has told men they don’t have to sup­port any­body. They are free to re­main boys for as long as they want.

And here is an ex­am­ple re­gard­ing both sexes. The loud­est and most sus­tained ap­plause I ever heard was that of col­lege stu­dents re­spond­ing to a speech by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in­form­ing them that they would now be cov­ered by their par­ents’ health in­surance poli­cies un­til age 26.

9. As a re­sult of the left’s sym­pa­thetic views of paci­fism and be­cause al­most no wel­fare state can af­ford a strong mili- tary, Euro­pean coun­tries rely on Amer­ica to fight the world’s evils and even to de­fend them. 10. The left­ist

sees so­ci­ety’s and the world’s great battle as be­tween rich and poor rather than be­tween good and evil.

Equal­ity there­fore trumps moral­ity.

This is what pro­duces the morally con­fused lib­eral elites that can ven­er­ate a Cuban tyranny with its egal­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety over a free and de­cent Amer­ica that has greater in­equal­ity.

None of this mat­ters to pro­gres­sives.

Against all this de­struc­tive­ness, they will re­spond not with ar­gu­ments to re­fute these con­se­quences of the lib­eral wel­fare state, but by cit­ing the terms “so­cial jus­tice” and “com­pas­sion,” and by la­bel­ing their op­po­nents “self­ish” and worse.

If you want to feel good, lib­er­al­ism is awe­some.

If you want to do good, it is largely aw­ful.


weltan­schau- Den­nis Prager hosts a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated ra­dio talk show and is a vis­it­ing fel­low at the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion at Stan­ford Univer­sity. He is the au­thor of four books, most re­cently “Hap­pi­ness Is a Se­ri­ous Prob­lem” (HarperCollins).

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