I don't want to dismiss the arguments about the practical costs and benefits associated with different styles of welfare states, mind you. I like those arguments, and they matter a great deal. I would just deny that they can come close to settling, in any meaningful sense, the debate over how big the American welfare state should be overall, and whether we should copy Western Europe or disdain it. That's because both the American and the European models of government are successful in purely practical terms, to the extent that purely practical terms exist - which is to say, both models have provided, over an extended period of time, levels of prosperity and stability unparalleled in human history. (Yes, the stresses that Islamic immigration and demographic decline are imposing on Europe are real and serious - but I think it's too soon to say, with Murray and many on the Right, that "the European model can't continue to work much longer," full stop. The end of history may be more resilient than we think!) And as long as this remains the case, where you come out on the debates over whether we should prefer the continent's sturdier safety nets to America's lower unemployment and higher growth rates (or the continent's more equible provision of health care to America's lead in health-care innovation, or what-have-you) will ultimately boil down to values as much as it will to what the numbers say.
How much do you prize equality and ease of life? The more you do, the more you'll favor a European approach to the relationship between state and society. How much do you prize voluntarism, entrepreneurship, and the value of lives oriented around service to one's family, and to God? The more you do, the more you'll find to like in the American arrangement. Where this debate is concerned, I'm proud to stand with Charles Murray - but I don't think that we should labor under the false hope that scientific advances are going to tilt the argument dramatically in our direction.
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