The concept of ‘welfare’ has become an open, bottomless vessel into which every desire can be poured.
One of the most successful linguistic hijackings ever is the Left’s appropriation of the term “welfare state.”
No one opposes the most basic version of a welfare state, one that provides essential public facilities, cares for the destitute and unfortunate, educates children, and protects public health and safety. Indeed, as the Supreme Courtin 1881, during an era regarded by the Left as a dark-age trough, “It will not be denied by any one that these are public purposes in which the whole community have an interest.”
A democratic polity can bicker over the scope of these functions. Some think care for the unfortunate should go a long way in the direction of income redistribution and that protecting public health requires extensive regulation. Others are more cautious. But these disagreements, while sometimes acrid, are within the bounds of civil political contest.
The problem is that the concept of “welfare” has become an open, bottomless vessel into which every desire can be poured: Government takeover of the entire health and retirement systems; detailed regulation of employment; manipulation of money; subsidies for housing, education, energy, food; or anything else that strikes the fancy of some segment of the public.
The “some segment” part is crucial, because today’s welfare has ceased to be limited to that of the public generally, or to the welfare of any group that has a serious claim to special deserts. Instead, it is the welfare of some special interest that is able to capture the policy process. This may require a pro bono publico justification, but these stories grow increasingly thin as the number of subsidies multiplies. They are credible only to a rationally ignorant public that is too busy tending to its own affairs to dig down even an inch. The governmental expansion created by these forces is awesome. In 1902, U.S. federal, state, and local governments spent less than 7 percent of the Gross National Product. Most (3.5 percent) occurred at the local level. States spent 0.76 percent, and the federal government controlled 2.71 percent. Now, total federal, state, and local government spending in the United States is about 42 percent. An unknown share is mandated by laws and regulations, many of which are triggered by special interests rather than by any serious public considerations. Good estimates are hard to come by, but probably at least another 15 percent of GDP goes into this maw., a fig leaf of
As government has grown, its functions have necessarily been divided and delegated to subunits. These become juicy targets for capture, and “welfare state” also means one in which pieces of the government are parceled out among various special interests, with each then allowed to use the power of its captive to promote private agendas through spending, regulation, taxation, and law. What we have created is not really a welfare state, it is a “Big SIS,” with SIS standing for “Special Interest State.”
Capture is not limited to economic interests—would that it were! Ideology is an equal if not greater motivator, and most powerful of all are the “élan of those who believe.” coalitions that combine the economic power of those who profit with the ideological
The Environmental Protection Agency is a prime example. The agency and its confreres in the Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers have been captured by the True Greens. They promote their anti-industrial agenda on every front, ranging from energy production to control of the electric grid to automobile safety to land use.
THE REST IS A MUST READ; FOLLOWING ARE EXCERPTS AND HERE IS THE LINK IF YOU SIMPLY WISH TO FINISH IT RIGHT NOW:http://american.com/archive/2012/june/its-not-a-welfare-state-its-a-special-interest-state