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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Freddie says:

    They worry that a program that benefits the poor more than the middle class won’t retain voter support.

    Which is always a political downside for those who speak for the least powerful, just as pushing through the most important civil rights legislation was a political disaster for liberalism at the time. But it’s our duty.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      I agree. It is the duty of liberals and conservatives to find ways to help the poor. I still think means-testing is the best route – but that requires a broader consensus that helping the poor is a fundamental responsibility of society.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Means-testing would, officially, change it from an “entitlement” to a “benefit”… that particular change in philosophy would have, I reckon, a lot of unintended consequences.Report

        • Avatar ChrisWWW says:

          I’m open to means testing as a feature of the welfare state if it means we can pass legislation that will genuinely help those in need sooner rather than later. But if we’re interested in a lean and mean safety net, creating huge bureaucracies to determine who is and isn’t eligible for state help seems counterproductive.

          I would rather see a simpler (a reset of all deductions) more progressive tax code to offset benefits going to the wealthy.Report

  2. Avatar Kyle says:

    This is always scary for liberals, though. They worry that a program that benefits the poor more than the middle class won’t retain voter support. This is why means-testing for social security always meets such resistance, because they fear that if only the lowest segment of the population stands to benefit, then whatever program it is faces a much greater chance of future defeat, cuts, and so forth.

    This got me thinking and I apologize in advance for the length of the comment. I think that line of thinking sells short the potency of liberalism’s arguments for mobilizing the nation to do good work.

    At their cores conservatism boils down to the importance of individual autonomy while modern liberalism reduces to the value of collective action. They’re both necessary and the great political irony of our age is that the right highlights private collective action as practically sacrosanct while denigrating liberalism though it’s a rather natural political expression of the same human desire to serve one another or work cooperatively.

    I think liberalism is strongest and most seductive when it’s seeking to inspire people to join efforts larger than themselves, when making moral appeals. I think part of the trouble with the political left today is that they’ve hybridized their appeals. Environmental policies aren’t just responsible they’re our key to economic vitality. Insuring the uninsured isn’t just something we ought to do but will be cheaper for us. It’s the magic bullet approach to public policy and by doing so it gives people who are uncomfortable with progressive policies the opportunity to lob on to the more objective appeals and challenge those rather than face a more subjective, but ultimately more powerful appeal.

    I think it makes progressives/liberals lazy debaters. They rely on idealistic plans, science, and supportive facts…until those are challenged and then they relapse into the moral imperative. By then, however, the damage is done – the battle lines drawn and it’s hard to demobilize.

    (i.e. the miraculous cost savings of preventative medicine)

    This isn’t to say that there aren’t progressive policies that are morally good and objectively good – there are. I just think getting the middle class to free ride off the poor so they’ll keep supporting programs is fiscally irresponsible and trading in the inspiration for the bottom line appeal has a higher opportunity cost than Dems/liberals realize.

    People want to work together to do good. If they didn’t we wouldn’t have as many charities, ngos, volunteers, etc… People want to fundraise with neighbours, volunteer with friends, run for medical research. I think liberalism has a lot more potential and power to change things by tapping into that through inspirational, moral appeals than by peddling cure-all wonder tonics and turning from greasy to shrill when confronted by scepticism.Report