William McGurn has hit the nail on the head. "The moral price of dependence on government is even higher than the financial cost." That is the truth that makes today's ideological contentions so weighty. It's not just that America is nearly broke. It's that it's nearly broken--needy, dependent, opportunistic at the expense of others. That's not the American way.
Mr. Ryan's budget is less about dollars and cents than the assumption behind them: that the best way to help Americans is to increase their access to the market rather than try to shield them from it.
The implications of that assumption are fleshed out in a prescient essay in the spring issue of National Affairs called "Beyond the Welfare State." Written by a former White House colleague of mine, Yuval Levin, it argues that the moment is ripe for conservatives to address the primary failure of the welfare state: a vision of man that is too narrow, tethered to a trust in government that is too high.
Conservatives, he says, reject the notion both that capitalism is dehumanizing, and that you increase social solidarity by increasing middle-class dependence on government. A conservative vision would consequently put a premium on upward mobility, promote personal responsibility, and in general regard institutions such as church and family as assets to be embraced rather than obstacles to be overcome. In short, as Mr. Levin says, it would "insist on the distinction between a welfare program and a welfare state."A distinction between a welfare program and a welfare state; well put, that. Noman, like McGurn, sees that liberals frequently espouse the right social goals: e.g., universal health care, help for the needy. But, the fallacy is that public problems necessarily call for public solutions. Private solutions are both the only ones we can afford, and the only ones that will work.