America's International Welfare State

By Wes Messamore

That welfare programs are ineffective and outside the purview of a proper government is nearly axiomatic to most self-described conservatives.

It was Ronald Reagan who rightly said "The ten most dangerous words in the English language are 'Hi, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'" The danger is found in government's consistent record - throughout history and across cultures - of incompetence on a scale that truly boggles the mind. Americans got a clear look at their own government's ineptitude as they watched in frustration and horror while government authorities tripped all over themselves for three days just to deliver water to the storm refugees in the Louisiana Superdome during the horribly mismanaged federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

In addition to their confidence in government's failure to deliver results, true conservatives have always believed that government should stay out of the business of redistributing wealthor this violates human liberty. Conservative icon Barry Goldwater summed it up well with a common line from his stump speech during the 1964 presidential campaign: "The government strong enough to give you what you want is strong enough to take it all away."

Yet while opposing welfare at home, American conservatives have been duped by internationalist progressives into supporting and paying for a massive global welfare state under the pretense of national security. This has allowed these Wilsonian interventionists to grow government to unprecedented levels and achieve their dreams of a worldwide nanny state with uncritical support from conservatives, who now believe that empire abroad keeps us safe at home.

But the projection of military power into Europe, for instance, doesn't make Americans safer. It makes Europeans safer, but Americans it only makes poorer. Can't Europe defend itself from the threat of terrorism or the spectre of resurgent Russian imperialism?

If not, it's because the European economy is incapable of sustaining sufficient defense spending in addition to the early retirements and lavish benefits of the European welfare state. In this case, American "defense spending" amounts to little more than making American taxpayers shoulder the burden for European entitlement programs.

Any self-described conservative who is serious about cutting Washington's out-of-control deficit must unequivocally oppose this kind of counterfeit defense spending as the welfare spending that it really is. It doesn't make us safe; it only makes us poor. Washington's two extended occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq should also be recognized for the massive welfare programs that they have become. President Obama's recent act of war in Libya is another illustrative example.

According to Pentagon figures reported by ABC News, just one week into the US-led intervention, taxpayers were already on the hook for $600 million. While there is a case to be made that a no-fly zone in Libya was a humanitarian action that prevented needless deaths at the hands of a despotic regime, there is no reason why neighboring Arab nations couldn't have enforced a no-fly zone themselves with their own well-equipped militaries-except to save money at the expense of US taxpayers, who get stuck with the bill and the blame in case anything goes wrong, as things inevitably do with violent conflict in populated areas.

Should the US military, paid for with American tax dollars and staffed with America's brave sons and daughters, be used to build infrastructure and deliver tax-subsidized food and medical supplies to the people of other countries - all while Americans at home suffer from unemployment and the national deficit runs into the trillions?

Or does the US military exist for one clear purpose: to defend Americans from foreign aggression?

If conservatives today are truly committed to cutting wasteful government spending and getting Washington's suicidal deficits under control, they cannot ignore the international welfare state of war in the guise of national defense spending.


A former YAL intern, Wes Messamore, 24, is an independent journalist who blogs at The Humble Libertarian while pursuing his dream of becoming a noted mainstream voice and advocate for liberty.