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William Murchison
William Murchison
2 Feb 2016
After Iowa

What's going on in this country right now, as exemplified in our current politics and the results in Iowa? I don'… Read More.

26 Jan 2016
What Matters in Politics -- And What Doesn't

My friends and fellow Americans: This Trump thing we're all chewing to death like a dog with a dishrag is … Read More.

19 Jan 2016
Reworking the Constitution to Save the Constitution

My governor, the Honorable Greg Abbott of Texas, sallied forth the other day with a plan to revise the … Read More.

Why Liberalism Doesn't Work


Reason No. 1 not to tremble at the prospect of liberal ascendancy, world without end: Liberalism doesn't work. At any rate, not the way liberals commonly suppose it's going to work when they devise enormous taxpayer-funded, government-run programs, minimally connected, if at all, to the realities of human existence.

An article in the Dec. 9 New York Times, of all places, gleams in the darkness of the present political moment as the Obama administration works to rub away resistance to its vision of an all-encompassing federal government. "This is painful for a liberal to admit," admits Nicholas D. Kristof, a Times columnist who, oddly, doesn't see his job as requiring regular trashing of conservatives, "but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America's safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire." Do tell. Kristof's careful examination of anti-poverty programs in Appalachia presents a viewpoint far more nuanced than, say, a Barack Obama speech urging the overhaul of capitalism. He finds that giving people too much free money for too long can create disincentives to live non-dependent lives. He talks about parents who pull illiterate kids out of literacy programs to avoid forfeiting a $698 monthly Supplement Security Income check meant to "help" the intellectually disabled.

Kristof (unlike various think tank and media figures) notes the complexity of the poverty issue. Part of that complexity, he reports with amazing realism (notwithstanding a well-earned personal reputation for realism), consists in the seductions of money.

Kristof understands marriage as "one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married households, only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households. He sees intellectual disability as a category unrealistically enlarged: presently covering "a full 8 percent of all low-income children," at an annual taxpayer cost of $9 billion.

"Those kids," he says, "may never recover: a 2009 study found that nearly two-thirds of these children make the transition at age 18 into S.S.I. for the adult disabled. They may never hold a job in their entire lives and are condemned to a life of poverty on the dole — and that's the outcome of a program intended to fight poverty."

Better, he continues, to work at creating environments favorable to helping welfare clients stand on their own feet. He praises the efforts of the aid group Save the Children, whose Appalachia staff visits "at-risk moms," helping "nurture the skills they need in the world's toughest job: parenting."

He notes a growing body of research suggesting that "the most effective strategy is to work early on children and education, and to try to encourage and sustain marriage." As in — Kristof didn't say this; I'm saying it — ye olden tyme, before the welfare lobby conspired with Congress to make welfare the solution of solutions to every human plight.

Kristof's insight, it is fair to note, has major antecedents. Charles Murray, in "Losing Ground," was first to make in sustained fashion the point that welfare, by fostering dependency, undermines social stability. Last January, Murray followed up, in "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1920-2010," with chilling confirmation that a "great divide" exists between new classes, upper and lower.

"Changes in social policy during the 1960s," he writes, "made it economically more feasible to have a child without having a husband if you were a woman or to get along without a job if you were a man..."

The old social norms have broken down. Who's to reconstruct them now? Conservatives? By themselves? What about conservatives, joined by liberals such as Kristof — eyes on both sides of the philosophical spectrum bulging with horrified recognition of harm inflicted in the name of salvation.

Conservatives can do business with liberals who, so to speak, get it — unlike the hierarchs of the new/old administration in Washington, where denial of plain facts seems to many the plainest proof of virtue. For now.

William Murchison, author and commentator, writes from Dallas. To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... You are correct... This country is a great liberal experiment, and up until the constitution and ever after people were arguing against the ability of the masses to govern themselves... Those reactionaries who have forever argued for the status quo, of the rich ruling the poor with the help of an army of brutes always available -only had to bide their time, and take advantage of the people and their opportunities... Yet, consider the cost as those reactionaries never will...
You can have a perfectly sound notion like nation expanded to include many nations as our nation is made; and then along comes some body who realized he can use that notion for his own benefit until the meaning of nation is sucked right out of it, translated into cash, and then the people see what nation really is, as just a device for sucking the life out of them...
Liberalism is such an idea; literally, to allow what you demand in the way of freedom... But those people who have come to count on their freedom who do not have to join in nation to fight for freedom who are unwilling to allow what they demand because fools like you mislead them on the subject, find the meaning or the word corrupted for the price of your living... You twist the meaning of word... You apply the term liberal to people as reactionary or conservative as all in the government are only because they are a fraction more liberal in their thinking... Considered as a word, Liberal- is just a word, what all liberated people are or should be... But using it as slander, you make that word lie for you, and that corruption of meaning is nothing more than a lie...
I am a liberal... I am not a democrat... I am as conservative as everyone else on the planet and more so in most respects... There is no opposition between liberal and conservative... These are not antipods... Everyone is conservative; usually, and especially -revolutionaries....If the revolution you want is anti liberal then you are not conservative but reactionary...
Most slimebag reactionaries are not so unreasonable as to believe a return to the past in any sense of the word is desirable or possible... What they do believe is that they are naturally superior to all others of equal rank, and only liberal ideas like liberty keep them from being the natural overmen they are...They want to be lords among peasants forgetting -if they ever knew- how close lords were to peasants, and how much actual poverty each shared...
What reactionaries who are not simply egomaniacs seek is the triumph of perfect ignorance, which may be the best discription possible for theocracy... God will certainly rule the course of this people when they can no longer rule themselves... We will only then discover what a great shit head is God to the powerless...God is good to good people, and liberalism is the triumph of goodness, of true morality... As liberalism dies we will find out what a party pooper the God of reactionism really is...
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:39 PM
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