Voegeli also asks at length why progressives who profess to care deeply about the welfare of others often seem so indifferent to whether welfare programs actually work as intended. If the goal is to help the suffering, then liberals should be more outraged than anyone else when a government program that spends billions on that objective fails to deliver. Instead, it is conservatives and libertarians who raise the alarms. This, Voegeli says, reveals liberal self-regard: Those who preach about compassion do so “less because they care about helping than because they care about caring.” They preach compassion not to render aid so much as to feel virtuous.
To this conservatives and libertarians might respond that, if (say) local charities could deliver certain services more effectively and at a lower cost, then nongovernmental, hence noncoercive, institutions should do more of the work of social kindness. Even simple cash transfers, such as a negative income tax, might be better since (as Voegeli writes) when government “gives people money, people receive the money it gives them. But when it gives them Head Starts or Model Cities,” the frequent failure of programs to work as intended means “they often wind up with something less than a head start or a model city.”
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