A Nation of Takers

Just out from Templeton Press: Nicholas Eberstadt’s A Nation of Takers. Nick’s harrowing account of “America’s Entitlement Epidemic” is accompanied by thoughtful comments by William Galston and Yuval Levin, as well as a brief reply by the principal author.

Unsurprisingly, the contributors agree that we cannot afford our gargantuan transfer state and its sharply ascending trajectory. Though Mr. Eberstadt does add—helpfully, though not hopefully—that the edifice may be sustainable for longer than we might think. We could pesofy the U.S. economy; or defund the military; or let the infrastructure crumble further, a la Atlas Shrugged. From John Galt stepping off the job to social collapse, it’s about twelve years. We could last considerably longer than that; it’s still a very rich country.

The contributors disagree, constructively, about the diagnosis—as in, what’s ultimately bad about the entitlement state? Or: if this were affordable, would we want it? Nick Eberstadt worries about a culture of dependencies, exemplified by male exit from the labor markets and rampant abuse in disability programs. Bill Galston finds evidence of a deep cultural change missing. Worrisome trends, he says, may have more to do with a aging society, globalization, profound technological changes (in the labor market and in health care), and the changed family structure. We have to adjust to all that, at a level we can afford. Yuval Levin observes that the entitlement state tends to mow down or corrupt all the intermediary institutions between individuals and the state—markets, families, charities, civil society.  Dependency is one result; but so is cynicism and a certain kind of infantilism: we can have all this, and not pay for it.

There’s much food for thought in this small book. I’ll say this: as both presidential contenders recognize, this is a debate the country does not want to have. Over the next four years of drift and deficits, though, maybe we’ll come to recognize that we have to have the debate. A Nation of Takers is a fine place to start.

Reader Discussion

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on October 28, 2012 at 06:46:50 am

Looking back over history, Welfare States funded by fiat currency,high taxes and borrowed money have always collapsed. The collapse occurs when the people who live off government largess outnumber,and therefor out vote, the productive producers.. When this happens the taxes imposed on the producers becomes unsustainable. When taxes become either unsustainable or uncollectable ,when no one wants to lend the State any more money and when money printing creates a situation where inflation has destroyed the value of the currency then the trifecta of a perfect economic storm comes together and destroys a nation. This has been repeated over and over again throughout history. A classic example would be the decline and fall of Rome. Depending on the wealth of a nation,the timetable for it's economic collapse varies. Today,America is rapidly approaching that perfect storm. When the storm hits,there are only two courses that a nation can take in order to restore some semblance of order. 1st. The nation could drastically cutback and or dismantle its Welfare State,cut taxes sharply,curtail regulations and restore the value of a nations currency. A majority of the population of a nation,either government employees or people riding on the government gravy train, would have to learn or relearn self reliance and self responsibility. This would be an extremely long and difficult task. Eventually,though,this may be the only choice left open to a society to recover from the ravages of collectivism. Sort of a "tough love" approach. 2nd. The nation could create a police state. Wage and price controls.draconian tax collection,more rules and regulations,the creation of a secret police,the numbering and cataloging of people from cradle to grave,gulags and labor camps set up throughout the nation,the erection of an electronic spying system and so forth. Sort of an updated Soviet Union. Even with the second course of events,it is obvious that this will only postpone the inevitable. As far as America is concerned I fear that the nation as a whole will evolve,at a quickening pace,into a police state. Already the systems are in place to create such a structure:. Social Security numbering,Fema Camps,the TSA,the IRS and plans to completely abandon the Constitutional Rule Of Law and replace it with the rule of men. The politicians have been bought and paid for,the judges have been corrupted and all the pieces are in place to make America into one vast penal colony. This eventuality,unless a drastic new direction for the ship of state takes place,will spell doom for the American Dream.

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libertarian jerry

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