The welfare stateAt a community center in Laguna Woods, California over the weekend, Fred Thompson sounded the alarm that America is headed for a socialist welfare state if any of the major Democratic contenders are elected next year:
"We know that the most liberal element of the Democratic Party has taken control of the Democratic Party, and if they win this next election we're going to go down the road of a welfare state," he said.
After warning of a government that gets "bigger and bigger," he said "I don't think the American people are going to turn the keys to this country over to the most left-wing part of a left-wing party next year."
"We've got to make sure that doesn't happen," he said.
Of course there isn't a thing Fred says in those quotes that I disagree with, only I would take his argument even further. We embarked on the road to a welfare state in this country a very long time ago. All of the elements of the welfare state (and not just the Social Security system) have since become the third rail of American politics. We aren't headed for a welfare state, we arrived there completely around 1965. Fred Thompson is absolutely right to take the welfare state on, though (from a politically realistic point of view) we aren't going to see the dismantling of the welfare state in the near future. Before we can ever hope to tackle the monstrosity that is the welfare state, we have to tackle the culture of dependency that the welfare state has created and that the Democratic Party expands with each election when their candidates for office at every level promise its increase.
The welfare state has become so pervasive that Republicans are now campaigning not on a platform of fighting the welfare state, but in reducing its increase. They are doing so for fear that if they propose the things that really need to be done, they will likely lose in nearly every election cycle. The sad truth, of course, is that this assumption is probably correct. Even Fred Thompson will not admit that we are in the firm grips of the welfare state-he must say we are headed there when he knows that we as a nation are already in its grip.
Thompson was absolutely right in the most recent Republican debate when he said that tackling the entitlement monster and rescuing America from being eaten by debt was going to take much more than just dealing with Social Security.
I know that many of my friends on the Left are well-meaning when they say they want universal health care, or a wide-ranging government-funded system of social services. They sincerely believe that it is the primary responsibility of government to take care of its citizens from cradle to grave. Some of these same folks are justifiably angry with the current administration for infringements on civil liberties such as government wiretaps of citizens without warrants and the PATRIOT Act. What they must remember is that a government that is big enough to "take care" of its people is also big enough to take away the freedoms that all Americans have come to take for granted.
We as a people cannot merely make the assumption that our political formation will "do the right thing" with the welfare state. Liberals and social welfare advocates sincerely believe that their political formation will "take care" of the people and yet preserve the freedoms of Americans. It didn't happen that way in the Soviet Union. The Soviet welfare state "took care" of its people to the point of taking their freedom away. Some conservatives (usually of the neoconservative variety) sincerely believe that they can best deal with the enemies of the nation by stripping them of what has come to be viewed as basic human rights and of constitutional protections, and that they can do this without threatening the freedoms of law-abiding Americans. It didn't work out that way in Nazi Germany in the 1930's and it isn't working in Communist China or in Venezuela today.
Americans need to re-examine the meaning of freedom. If freedom for Americans still means the ability to live your life with a minimum of government interference, then the American people will have to make the collective decision to undo the welfare state. That massive and ugly beast will never die unless the American people decide that the price of freedom is worth killing it.