This, of ourse, is the title of the instant classic of an exchange between Nick Eberstadt and Bill Galston in Saturday’s WALL STREET JOURNAL .
Here are the summaries given of each position:
Eberstadt: “With a treasure chest of government-supplied benefits readily available, a taker mentality has become part of our way of life.” (And, in general, Eberstadt seems to me to exaggerate our dependence.)
Galston: “There are compelling reasons to rethink the entitlement state, but they have little to do with a culture of dependence.” (And, obviously, “little to do” is exaggeration in the other direction.)
But in general: I find myself CLOSER to Galston. The implosion of our entitlement safety nets has more to do with the demographic crisis—too many old people and not enough young ones—and uneven and uncertain economic growth (which has lots of causes). It is, as I’ve explained before, somewhat of a crisis of individualism. And I don’t buy the theory that people cut back on the babies because, what with Social Security and all, they wouldn’t need them to take care of them in their old age. Women’s liberation into the workforce, which was more good than not, is a big cause here.
The “road to serfdom” or “soft despotism” exaggeration of Nick corresponds to the vision of THE TEA PARTY, not mentioned at the Republican convention. And it wasn’t the vision presented by Ryan (the ex-Randian and new Catholic Social Thought guy).
So at first I was afraid that my strange attraction to Galston (whose article does have various liberal idealizations I can’t believe in, but still) meant I was an in-denial, deeply closeted Democrat.
But after all: Galston’s view is actually very close to Romney’s—and hardly Obama’s. Romney is about fixing our entitlements, and not about blaming anyone for them. Same with Ryan.