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News Link • Government Debt & Financing

The Allure of Respectable Welfare


Ludwig von Mises noted that by calling their program "welfare" the economic interventionists slanted the debate in their favor, for who could oppose such a thing? Everyone wants welfare in the broad sense. Indeed, the "general welfare" is a principle, however confused, affixed in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution.

Today, welfare has lost its rhetorical advantage. Ever since the bipartisan welfare reform of the 1990s, the word "welfare" has not had the positive connotations of the past. Liberals rarely talk openly about how we need more of it. Conservatives talk freely about how it should be discarded. Even in substance, the debate has changed somewhat.

So too has the center left abandoned its talk about redistribution for the very poorest among us. Liberals used to complain about homelessness, calling it an epidemic. Their programs have not improved upon the situation. Now it is mostly ignored.

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