Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Welfare State: Mend it or End it?

What should we do about the welfare state of comprehensive government social-insurance programs? We know that Social Security can't go on the way it has.  We know that Medicare is worse.  We know that government education from K to grad school is mindlessly elbowing boys aside as it mindlessly continues to regard girls as an "under-served population."

But the question for conservatives is: should we mend it or wait until things get worse and end it?

Here's NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez interviewing Christina Hoff Sommers, author of the updated 2000 book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men.  Yeah.  Thirteen years later and nothing has been done.  Girls are doing better and better in school, and boys are doing worse and worse.  Sommers suggests a program similar to ones in Australia and Britain.
[W]e can follow the example of the British, the Canadians, and the Australians. They have openly addressed the problem of male underachievement. They are experimenting with programs to help them become more organized, focused, and engaged. These include more boy-friendly reading assignments (science fiction, fantasy, sports, espionage, battles); more recess time (where boys can engage in rough-and-tumble play as a respite from classroom routine); campaigns to encourage male literacy; more single-sex classes; and more male teachers (and female teachers interested in the pedagogical challenges boys pose). A few years ago, the Australian government launched a campaign called “Success for Boys.” This program provided grants to 1,600 schools to incorporate boy-friendly methods into their daily practice.
Oh good.  Another one-size-fits-all government program.  With its own advocates, its bureaucrats, and its special interest suppliers.

Here's Reagan-era warhorse Martin Feldstein offering a reform of Social Security and Medicare by raising eligibility levels and lowering benefits.
Congress should vote now to continue raising the full benefit age from 67 to 70. When that is fully phased in, the annual cost of Social Security benefits would be reduced by about 20%, equivalent to a saving in 2020 of $200 billion or about 1% of GDP.

Gradually raising the age of Medicare eligibility in line with the age for full Social Security benefits would achieve a budget saving of more than 1% of GDP in 2020 and later years. Individuals between ages 65 and 70 could still enroll in Medicare by paying a fair premium.
Do conservatives really want to get caught in this trap: the people that cut Social Security and Medicare?

The conservative vision of a limited government and a large civil society would surely require that parents control the education of their children.  So it would be meaningless what the government thought about it.  Parents would organize their children's education according to their lights not according to some elite activist's lights.

The conservative vision would surely require that the inflexible one-size-fits-all structure of Social Security and Medicare should be replaced by personal saving.  You want a secure retirement with a good income and a solid health care package?  Why, you work and save for it.  And if you have made a mistake or two on the way, or if the government strips the nation of resources in a war or a financial collapse, then you get to work a year or two extra.  Your work and your savings then create jobs and careers for the young generation as you enjoy your retirement.

No doubt we should all be forced to pay for a safety net for people that will not or cannot provide for their children or themselves.  But the default must be that people take care of their own.  The default must be that millions of us, responding to the challenges and the opportunities of our individual lives, work and save and adapt in our own individual ways to contribute to the welfare of the whole.  That is the foundation of humans as social animals.  We each do our best, contributing according to our lights.

When we talk about a program to help boys, or a cut to Social Security and Medicare, we are still talking the liberals' language, with the government in the center of our lives, telling us what to do, or else. And inevitably the whole thing will turn upon the free stuff that the government hands out to its supporters.

I went to watch a play-reading over the weekend.  It used Don Quixote to illuminate the problems of the homeless and the mentally ill and the question of Dignity for such people.

Well, here's an idea.  There can be no Dignity in the authoritarian welfare state.  That's because government is force, and system is domination.  Nobody, not the Tea Party member being roughed up by the IRS or the homeless Hispanic hearing voices, gets to be treated with Dignity when the government functionaries are backed by government force.  Because there always comes a point in an interaction with a government functionary where the functionary says do what I say or else.

There is such a thing as society.  It's just not the same thing as the state.

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