Concord’s Avett Brothers may sing about it, but Daniel Foster documents in the latest National Review that shame seems to be a quality in short supply these days, thanks at least in part to the efforts of FDR and his epigones.
Due in part to the very acceptance and perceived success of the New Deal and its progeny, the taint of shame associated with being on the dole has long since faded. What’s worse, this moral change has coincided with demographic and actuarial changes that have made entitlements more lopsidedly redistributive, and thus unsustainable, Now, dependence on the federal goverment — not just by the poor, but by the middle and even upper classes — for everything from health insurance to home ownership, college to retirement, is so complete that most of us don’t notice the stream of subsidies until it is interrupted. And worse, we’re not even ashamed of ourselves.
Indeed the overriding characteristic of our bloated welfare state is its shamelessness. …
… So long as we are shameless, our entitlement crisis remains as much moral as fiscal. The paradox we are left with is that the only society that can make entitlements work is one that doesn’t feel entitled.