Monday, November 12, 2012

What is good for the individual...

Robert Samuelson says we need to recognize America has a massive welfare state.

The welfare state's great contradiction -- the reason its politics are so messy -- is that what seems good for the individual is not, when multiplied by thousands or millions of cases, always good for society. Politicians appeal to individuals who vote, but in doing so may shortchange the nation. Most obviously: The welfare state's costs may depress economic growth.

The need is not to dismantle the welfare state but to modernize it gradually, preserving its virtues, minimizing its vices and not doing it abruptly so as to derail the recovery. But first we need to admit it exists.

What seems good for the individual is not always good for society. That is a very difficult issue we like to avoid.


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