So clear even a liberal could understand

Noemie Emery has written an important essay in the Weekly Standard on the problem with the welfare state. It expertly explains the politics of  entitlements, full of insight. Best of all, it is written in a way that makes it accessible to liberals with doubts.

The coming election requires that conservatives win over people who supported liberal politics because they thought they were being compassionate. Some of them are waking up and noticing that these policies haven't worked very well. It is hard to deny reality forever. But we have to provide them a honorable way out of their old positions.

Emery does this in spades, explaining what happens when goods -- things that require human effort -- are confused with rights -- which come from nature and are costless. Her explanation of "the dangers inherent in treating a good as a right" is crystal clear and persuasive. She couples this with a political history of how this confusion became embedded in our political economy. Here are a few gems:

Was it wrong for the liberals to try to create an entitlement paradise when World War II ended? No, the war's end seemed a good time to start over; the link between the rights that they fought for and the "right" to a middle-class standard of living seemed rather more plausible then, and they had no way of knowing it might one day prove too expensive.

It's easier to think of goods as rights when the costs are low, and they therefore take little from others. It's when the costs rise-as in medical treatments-that the political trade-offs rise, too.

She describes how liberals sell new entitlements, and what happens aftre they start and the costs are "unexpectedly" high:

Then the fine print is revealed, and people are shocked at the expense and conditions. It's then that their attitudes change.

What the fine print reveals beyond disputation is that health care is a good, not a right; that goods involve trade-offs, and that the trade-offs are high: higher costs and less choice for those covered already, rationing inflicted by government bureaucrats, interference by bureaucrats in medical doings, doctors threatening to leave the profession, less incentive (and money) to develop new treatments and drugs. They still want what they wanted before, but not at the cost of the harm it will wreak on the system in general. They vote their concerns, and 1994 and 2010 turned out very badly for Democrats. Stunned, Democrats fall back on their noble intentions, and say their opponents are mean.

Here is how she puts the issue to onetime supporters of the welfare state:

It was not wrong to have a fling with the welfare state sixty-five years ago, when it was a noble experiment that had not yet been attempted. It is wrong to ignore the evidence that in some ways it is failing, that the model set up has become unsustainable, and that renovations are needed if its critical functions are to survive.

You may well know poeple who should read this article. Here is the URL again:

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