[M]odern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we’ve had for the past three generations — that is, a society that, acting through the government, tries to mitigate some of the “common hazards of life” through such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.I couldn't have said it better myself. You see, we conservatives believe that when society "acting through the government" works to mitigate the common hazards of life, it diminishes people and damages society. We believe passionately that society should act to mitigate the common hazards of life. We just believe these things should be done through people, not through government.
Conservatives think that the mitigation of the common hazards of life is one of the basic functions of society, but that society, that is, people working together collectively, must cooperate together to do this.
Conservatives believe that when government is deputized to do this, when these mitigations of the common hazards of life are organized by government force in government taxes and government spending then the whole of society is put at hazard. Humans are social animals, not social slaves.
Social Security: It is common knowledge that Social Security discourages people from saving for their old age. That's a double harm, because it makes people more dependent and it reduces the opportunities for young people created by older peoples' savings. Now it's going broke, and betraying the people it was meant to help.
Unemployment insurance: People that receive unemployment payments don't look for work very hard. After all, it's not their money they are spending. And unemployment insurance costs many employers a bundle. For instance in Washington State in construction it can go up to 6 percent. Imagine if that money went into a personal account for the worker. Unemployment insurance is not insurance; it is an encouragement for free-riders.
Medicare, Medicaid: These programs are going to bust the budget, because the programs give away a lot of free services. The only way to reform them is to get the government out of them and start to make everyone pay for routine care up front. Anyone who, e.g., smoke cigarettes, can afford to pay a little more on their health care.
Viewed from the conservative perspective the great social programs that liberals are so proud of represent a monstrous betrayal. After promising the moon to the workers we are now facing the fact that the promises cannot be redeemed. Modest, ordinary people that put their faith in politicians are going to be screwed.
Imagine: Suppose that Social Security had been a proper savings program from the start. That means that many people of modest means would have saved a significant capital sum that they could pass on to their children. But not with Social Security. Suppose Medicare/Medicaid were true insurance programs with realistic deductibles and co-pays. Why then the grannies would be ferociously shopping for the best prices and the best service. That's a big difference from right now where they care only about the service and not about the price. The two programs are going to eat the budget, so there will have to be cuts, and sooner rather than later. And without the government programs that let prosperous people off the hook, then we could all work together to make sure that people that have come upon hard times "through no fault of their own" could be properly helped.
Worst of all, after the liberal politics of the last three generations we now have an entitlement society where people expect to get a ton of services for free--because it's their right. That is not society. That is looting. The health of any society depends on the amount that people are prepared to put into it, not by compulsion from taxes or from forced labor, but from their own cooperative spirit. Liberals have managed, "in the last three generations" to destroy that cooperative spirit and turn the society of voluntary association into a selfish grab-it-and-go society.
The impression we conservatives get, Dr. Krugman, is that liberals believe that big government programs equal a compassionate society. The facts argue otherwise. In Makers and Takers, Peter Schweizer reports that liberals, people that believe in the welfare state, are less generous at a personal level than conservatives. And less honest. And more angry. In other words, liberals are less social that conservatives. I wonder why.
If you liberals really believe that government spending equals societal compassion, Dr. Krugman, I've got a bridge to sell you.