Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Give every American $10,000 a year -- and nothing else

See Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal March 22, 2006 article A Plan to Replace the Welfare State by Charles Murray

It includes:
■ “The welfare state as we know it cannot survive. No serious student of entitlements thinks that we can let federal spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid rise from its current 9% of GDP to the 28% of GDP that it will consume in 2050…”
■ “America is so wealthy that enabling everyone to have a decent standard of living is easy. We cannot do it by fiddling with the entitlement and welfare systems -- they constitute a Gordian Knot that cannot be untied. But we can cut the knot. We can scrap the structure of the welfare state.”
■ “just collect the taxes, divide them up, and send the money back in cash grants to all American adults. Make the grant large enough so that the poor won't be poor, everyone will have enough for a comfortable retirement, and everyone will be able to afford health care.”
■ “Giving everyone access to a comfortable retirement income is easy for a country as rich as the U.S. -- if we don't insist on doing it through the structure of the welfare state.”
■ “Health care is more complicated in its details, but not in its logic. We do not wait until our 21-year-old is 65 and then start paying for his health care. Instead, we go to a health insurance company and tell it that we're prepared to start paying a constant premium now for the rest of the 21-year-old's life.”
■ “Providing access to basic medical care for everyone is easy for a country as rich as the U.S. -- if we don't insist on doing it through the structure of the welfare state.”
■ “The more profound problem facing the world's most advanced societies is how their peoples are to live meaningful lives in an age of plenty and security.”
■ “Throughout history until a few decades ago, the meaning of life for almost everyone was linked to the challenge of simple survival. Staying alive required being a contributing part of a community. Staying alive required forming a family and having children to care for you in your old age.”
■ “If you believe that's all there is -- that the purpose of life is to while away the time as pleasantly as possible -- then it is reasonable to think that the purpose of government should be to enable people to do so with as little effort as possible. But if you agree with me that to live a human life can have transcendental meaning, then we need to think about how human existence acquires weight and consequence.”
■ “The chief defect of the welfare state from this perspective is not that it is ineffectual in making good on its promises (though it is), nor even that it often exacerbates the very problems it is supposed to solve (though it does). The welfare state is pernicious ultimately because it drains too much of the life from life.”


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