As I and others have pointed out, all of the risks that welfare state supporters say we need government “social insurance” to protect ourselves against — accident, illness, old age, job loss — can and were addressed privately and voluntarily before the creation of the welfare state: through private savings, insurance, informal help, formal charity and, notably, mutual aid societies.
In his essay, Mike Konczal starts by challenging the view that the American welfare state started with the New Deal. If he can convince us that America was always a welfare state, then not only is it wrong to point to the period before the 1930s as evidence that free enterprise works — but the very notion that American ideals clash with welfare state ideals becomes harder to swallow.
“Ideology is as much about understanding the past as shaping the future.” So starts Mike Konczal’s recent Democracy Journal article, “The Voluntarism Fantasy.” And on this point, he couldn’t be more right.
On the steps of the Salem, New Jersey, courthouse in 1830, legend has it that a daredevil named Robert Johnson elicited gasps from the crowd when he announced his next trick. Some remarked that he would be dead before morning; others simply watched in horror as he held aloft a small red object.
Why has Ayn Rand been so influential on the right? That was one of the questions a segment on CNN today tried to answer. According to one of the guests, Rand critic Gary Weiss, the answer is simple: “Ayn Rand made it morally acceptable to be harsh in your treatment of the poor.”