ON-Lion Letter

"If social policy were medicine, and countries were the patients, the United States today would be a post-surgical charge under observation after an ambitious and previously untested transplant operation," begins an essay by Bradley Prize recipient Nicholas Eberstadt in the Winter 2015 issue of National Affairs.  "Surgeons have grafted a foreign organ -- the European welfare state -- into the American body.  The transplanted organ has thrived -- in fact, it has grown immensely. 

"The condition of the patient, however, is another question altogether," Eberstadt continues in "American Exceptionalism and the Entitlement State."  "The patient's vital signs have not responded entirely positively to this social surgery; in fact, by some important metrics, the patient's post-operative behavior appears to be impaired.  And, like many other transplant patients, this one seems to have effected a disturbing change in mood, even personality, as a consequence of the operation."

Eberstadt is holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C.  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports AEI projects and National Affairs.

"[T]here is little reason to believe that the transplant will be rejected any time soon," Eberstadt concludes in the piece, which is adapted from his chapter in the forthcoming volume The State of the American Mind from Templeton Press.

"To date the American voter's appetite for entitlement transfers appears to be scarcely less insatiable than those of voters anywhere else," he laments.  "Our political leadership, for its part, has no stomach for taking the lead in weaning the nation from entitlement dependence.  Despite tactical, rhetorical opposition to further expansion of the entitlement state by many voices in Washington, and firm resistance by an honorable and principled few, collusive bipartisan support for an ever-larger welfare state is the central fact of politics in our nation's capital today, as it has been for decades. 

"Until and unless America undergoes some sort of awakening that turns the public against its blandishments, or some sort of forcing financial crisis that suddenly restricts the resources available to it, continued growth of the entitlement state looks very likely in the years immediately ahead.  And in at least that respect, America today does not look exceptional at all."

Actions: E-mail | Permalink |