The Welfare State Dilemma, Left and Right

Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State William Voegeli with a foreword by Steven F. HaywardEncounter Books, 2010; 327 pages, $30.50 Government Is the Problem: Memoirs of Ronald Reagan’s Welfare Reformer Robert B. Carleson, Edited by Susan A. Carleson and Hans A. ZeigerAmerican Civil Rights Union, 2009; 160 pages, $25.00 If the American Conservative, National Review, and the Weekly Standard would cooperate in selecting a book of the year, William Voegeli’s narrative explaining why neither rising living standards nor a conservative movement that has achieved more than a few electoral successes has been able to roll back the expansion of the welfare state, Never Enough, should be in the running. Unlike any recent assessment of American political culture, Never Enough offers a rare combination of empirical data, political philosophy, and policy analysis that not only exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of liberalism but also explains the inability of conservatives and Republicans to beat their opponents in the struggle over the federal government’s role as social engineer. Among his achievements, Voegeli, a fellow at the Henry Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College, examines the economy that Ronald Reagan transformed with a new set of eyes, claiming that its asymmetrical growth pattern has made the conservative project of limiting government much harder, a conclusion that will not please economic conservatives, whether supply-siders or libertarians, who resent any questioning of their agenda. How his challenge to the conservative status quo relates to the memoir of Robert B. Carleson, Government Is the Problem, may not be clear. Yet the account of an unheralded lieutenant of Governor and President Ronald Reagan who achieved some success in decentralizing the welfare system vindicates Voegeli’s recommendation—bound to cause a ruckus during a time of Tea Part
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