Questions on “Two Cheers for the Welfare State”

Based on David Frum’s recent article, I have some questions:

  • Frum has come to accept the modern welfare state after the 2008 economic crash and the fact that the years leading up to the crash didn’t raise the income of middle class Americans.  So what is “conservative” about the welfare state?  Can the two be reconciled? What does it mean to “shape the welfare state?”
  • The last 30 years or so of conservatism has basically rested on the concepts of small government, low taxes and less regulation.  Is the willingness to accept the welfare state mean a repudiation of the last three decades in conservatism?  If so, then what is conservatism now?
  • What is Frum’s role when it comes to taxation?  Does he expect tax rates to rise and if so, how much? What type of taxation should we use in the future?  Income tax?  A VAT tax?  Both?
  • Walter Russell Mead has argued that the “blue social model,” which is basically the welfare state that has been in place since the 1930s or so, is starting fail in light of a changing world.  Does Frum agree with this analysis?


9 thoughts on “Questions on “Two Cheers for the Welfare State”

  1. SAR

    What I see in Frum’s articles is not that he suddenly became a flaming liberal. He still have the same ideology as before 2008. What has changed is that he added nuance and grounding in reality. From what I understand, what Frum is asking is very *conservative*: how do we improve our economy, and our society, without doing anything /radical/? Many might not like the welfare state, but it was build for some reason (other than political gain). It would be radical to dismantle it on a whim. It is *conservative* to try to make such changes small and steady.

    1. Dennis Sanders Post author

      All good points. I don’t necessarily disagree with him- I think there are some good things about the welfare state. These are just questions that arose from the article. I’ve sent the article to Frum Forum to see if it will be posted there- I would really be interested in what his answers would be.

  2. John Randall

    I’m sorry but what conservatism are you talking about? “The last 30 years or so of conservatism has basically rested on the concepts of small government, low taxes and less regulation:…in what government on what planet. The conservatism I have witnessed over the last thrity years saw the unfunded expansion of medicare, an ever expanded military complex, corporate welfare and more attempts at regulating what goes on in peoples bedroom and too whom they wish to marry than I can attempt to count. I also witness the conservative Reagan raise taxes more time than he cut them. As well as H.W Bush. What empircal evidence do you present that suggest the welfare stae is failing? When the exact opposite is occuring. We just got finish bailing out Wall Street and Detriot for goodness sake. If thats not welfare then what teh hell is? If there is one constant theme of conservatism it is its refusal to accept and confront reality. Say what you will about Mr. Frum but at least he is pro-offering solutions based on facts not some abstract theorys. With all due respect, this post is horrible.

    1. Dennis Sanders Post author


      I don’t totally disagree with Frum, but I do have some questions that were not answered by his article.

      John, I will not tolerate basically being maligned. Feel free to disagree, but do it in a civil manner or you will be banned.

  3. John Randall

    Point taken. But what questions? More to the point are they conservative questions or Republican questions. I contend that the Republican party is living in a delusional fantasy world of if we just speak it then it will be true. So I ask again, what questions?

    1. Dennis Sanders Post author

      The questions would probably be considered conservative questions because I wonder how this can line up with Frum’s conservative beliefs. He believes conservatism can be reformed and so do I, but I would like to see what he means by reform in this article. Is it simply accepting the social insurance programs we have as is and not change them at all? Do it mean abandoning the small government trajetory that has been a part of the conservative movement and if so then what does conservatism mean then?

      I do believe that we should have social insurance like Medicare and Social Security as well as unemployment insurance. But I don’t know if they have to remain the way they always have been unchanged or if there are way to conservative means to achive liberal ends.

      I think Frum is right to question the conservative view of the welfare state, but he doesn’t seem to really offer an alternative vision. All he seems to say is that conservatives should reconcile themselves to the state. All well and good, but is that really a vision?

      My questions aren’t attacks on Frum, but I do feel there are lot of questions left unanswered.

      1. John Randall

        I agree with your take on Frum. My question to you then is, havent we just moved welfare from the individual to the corporations. We can not sustain medicare, medicaid and social security on this current path. At some point wether we like if or not, tax hikes are coming. Will the current Republican party allow this to happen despite their hero Reagan having done it on numerous occassions? I dont think these are conservative questions at all though. The are more mainstream than anything, I think. These programs have been and will continue to change. Especially as our generation begins paying the tab for the boomer generation. Some how through its inception and its current state, Social Security has the became the defacto retirement plan for many Americans and it should not be. How do we change that mindset? My fundamental disagreement with you is that conservatism hasn’t been small government in my entire lifetime, I’m 36. I would like and join such a conservative movement if one existed.

  4. John Randall

    As far as being maligned, my apologies. I like your writing and courage, so I grown to expect better from you. You offer some great view points that aren’t often debated. I read your post to learn a thing or two and am often not disappointed

  5. Mike Quinlan

    You want small government, move back to small towns and become insular in so far as the world is concerned. I want to see less military, less police, less corporate subsidies, less individualism, less ignoring your responsibility towards others, less dictatorship in the work place, less environmental destruction, less ignorance and less inaccurate history and blind ideological posturing.


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