EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Our Constitution Is Incompatible With The Democrats’ Permanent Welfare State

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The following is an excerpt from “Underserved: Harnessing the Principles of Lincoln’s Vision for Reconstruction for Today’s Forgotten Communities” by Ja’ron Smith and Chris Pilkerton. It can be purchased here.

The problem society is faced with is truly a market failure for our country—not unlike a massive financial crash or other significant crisis. And when markets fail, chaos can ensue. And to a certain extent, that is what happened over the course of the COVID pandemic—race-based riots, unmitigated violence, and other undesirable social consequences. Just as with other market failures, if something is not done, the destruction and degradation of our society will continue.

A specific plan must be articulated. This plan must be consistent with the founding principles of this country and with capitalist and competitive economic views.

That was the ultimate goal of Lincoln’s vision of Reconstruction: that society would take on this mantle of progress because it was about the collective economic good. What has since happened is that some of society’s most significant struggles have become isolated in different communities, and the federal government has taken the responsibility for those struggles from the community and sought to fill in the gaps as it sees fit—much of which has exacerbated the original problems.

In modern America, the Democratic party has based significant portions of its political philosophy on the fact that so-called social safety-net programs not only must exist but must exist in seeming perpetuity. At first glance, this sounds like the basis for a utopian society where everyone’s needs are met simply by living in America; however, this philosophy has created not only dependence but the unrealistic expectation that these benefits will always be there. As such, there is no incentive to take any other action than to apply for federal government benefits—rinse and repeat. This approach not only fosters a blind dependence on the programs, it all but ensures that many people will never achieve any economic viability beyond the minimum standards set by the federal government. Ironically, by providing financial and other resources with no real timetable or incentive to advance beyond them, these programs stifle a traditional economic market that not only includes supply and demand, but still assumes that rational participants will act in a manner to achieve their greatest benefit. The greatest economic benefit here is a false choice, as these individuals have been presented not with the limitless opportunity of America’s capitalist economy but with the ceiling of whatever federal government benefits they can cobble together. In fact, they are given the unwarranted dilemma of comparing the dollar value of a job to the dollar value of a program for which they may continue to qualify if they do not seek out that job. Further, given the many decades of this approach, an intergenerational impact has developed, and many people view government programs as their only opportunities for survival.

And here is where it gets worse. This dependency has become institutionalized, not just for those who have inadvertently bound themselves to these programs but for liberal politicians who count on these individuals as a voting base. There is a political reality that purportedly fighting for these people is simply a way to continue the cycle of this market failure and maintain time in office. This undermines the concept of limited government and actually creates a limiting government that does not provide a social safety net for those who actually need it, but rather only for those who either want it or have been led to believe that it is all they can achieve.

Conservative thinkers have warned of these possibilities for centuries. Take, for example, renowned 1700s conservative Edmund Burke, who famously wrote about the tyranny of English King George III, as well as the French Revolution. He noted that “it is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare,” demonstrating that those who say they are fighting for the underserved in the context of economic programs may not in fact have the welfare of the general public in mind. Liberal politicians who continually promise more and more government involvement are not bound by any real outcome—as continual election to office is their desired goal.

Conservative critics of the liberal politicians’ approach may be deemed heartless as some may say they are not accounting for the truly needy. Nothing could be further from the truth, as conservative ideals include taking steps to provide for those who truly need it.

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Reconstruction had the ability to set Black people and poor Southern Whites on a trajectory that would have allowed them to be competitive and engaged in civil society. The failures of that time have exacerbated poverty, economic trauma, familial instability, and so many other critical elements that the impact has risen to a true market failure for civil society. By taking a different approach today, we would collectively and intentionally take a massive step—albeit focused in scope and limited in duration—to turn the page on decades of disappointment, fear, and despair.

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