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Policy Digest: Welfare State Edition

  • George Will:This is the progressive premise in action: Because government provides infrastructure (roads, etc.) affecting everyone, and because government-dispensed money flows everywhere, everything is beholden to the government, and more or less belongs to the government, and should be subordinated to its preferences, which always are for more control of the nation’s wealth.” I’ve made this point in regard to the welfare state. The recipients of government handouts are inevitably told they have no right to assert their right to make independent decisions: they are “beholden to the government.”

  • “Income Data is a Poor Measure of Inequality.” Beware of definitive statements about the extent of economic inequality (from the left or the right). These things are extraordinarily hard to measure, and often are radically inconsistent with the actual living standards of flesh and blood individuals. Don Boudreaux makes a similar point here.

  • Paul Ryan says he was wrong to talk about “the makers and the takers.” A few months ago, Onkar Ghate and I discussed why that distinction can be misleading (e.g., many of the people who receive government handouts are productive people). Unfortunately, Ryan’s own reasons for disclaiming the distinction are unclear, and he seems to suggest that there are no takers, i.e., unproductive moochers who really do want something for nothing, and that everyone in the welfare state is “struggling and striving to get ahead.” That’s not true. The important point to make is that those who are struggling and striving would be better off without a welfare state.

  • One of the major claims people like Senator Elizabeth Warren use to argue for increasing Social Security payments is that we face a retirement crisis. I recently interviewed Sylvester Schieber about this on The Debt Dialogues, and he explained that the data do not support that claim. Now Schieber (along with AEI scholar Andrew Biggs) is defending his conclusion against criticism from Social Security expansionist Alicia Munnell. Here’s part one.

  • Mike Rowe, former host of the wildly entertaining show Dirty Jobs, just came out with what he calls the S.W.E.A.T. Pledge, which stands for “Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo.” I don’t agree with every last word, but overall it’s a pretty darn good statement of the waning ethic of self-reliance.