Case Closed

June 4, 2010

As someone who has more than once wondered what is true and whether (and with how much certainty) it is even possible to know, I was interested to learn that three factual claims I had heard Mark Steyn and other commentators make in the past have now been confirmed by longtime liberal bastion The New York Times and more-or-less liberal “newsmagazine” Time:

1 — The European pacifist welfare state has worked (to the extent that it has “worked”) for as long as it has partly because, from the end of World War II to the present, America has shouldered the burden of “national” defense, not only for herself but for more or less all of Europe.

2 — The European welfare state no longer works.

3 — That’s partly because Europeans aren’t having enough children.

(For the three articles I just linked—my personal advice?  Save yourself time:  Read the column by Steyn, who spoke the truth before it was popular; skip the two Johnny-come-latelies.)

If only one side of a political-cultural divide is making a certain claim, then one logical possibility is that the claim is false but that side has a political interest in making it (or believing it); another logical possibility is that the claim is true but the other side has a political interest in denying it (or not believing it).  If, on the other hand, the factual-claim-investigating specialists or elites of both sides agree that a certain claim is true, it seems highly likely that there is some truth to it.

It’s like with Social Security:  I had heard it claimed that Social Security, a few decades down the road, would be paying out more money than it took in (again, partly due to falling birthrates)—that is, that it would go bankrupt and be unable fully to pay even the paltry, good-enough-for-government-work return that workers had been promised when they paid into it.  I heard this from many conservative commentators, and even some of the more courageous politicians, such as President Bush, who attempted to introduce far-sighted but modest reforms while the problem was still manageable and not a crisis.  Yet I didn’t hear it from any pro-big-government liberals.  So I still wondered whether it was true—that is, until I got mail from Social Security itself informing me that, under the current system, it simply won’t have enough money to pay me the benefits I’m “entitled” to.  Q. E. D.

In the column linked above, Mark Steyn argues that when we conservatives say liberty is better than the welfare state, it’s not primarily a question of economics; it’s a question of culture, happiness, and life itself.  Arthur C. Brooks makes a somewhat similar argument (though from a somewhat different angle) in a recent article of his own.  The 2009 Charles Murry speech Steyn quotes is available here.

3 Responses to “Case Closed”


  1. […] We have huge entitlement programs, like Social Security, that are already unsustainable, even by their own count.  A politician can’t very well advocate cutting spending on any of them, because the […]


  2. […] done more harm than good, corrupting the nations of Europe and causing, in no small part, the mess they’re in today.  Steyn has called it “defense welfare”. Posted by Chillingworth Filed in Politics and […]


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