Last year, the campaign of the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was damaged when a videotape surfaced showing him lamenting that 47 percent of the American people “believe that they’re entitled to health care, to food, to housing, you name it.” Eberstadt might have offered the candidate some sympathy. Like Romney, Eberstadt is not a fan of the entitlement state. From his perspective, entitlements create not only an enormous fiscal challenge but also a culture of dependency that undermines the foundations of the American ethos of enterprise. In his essay responding to Eberstadt’s arguments, Levin goes even further, arguing that the entitlement state is squeezing the life out of civil society and weakening the United States’ capacity for effective self-governance. In his own response, Galston does not dispute the math but argues that taking care of the less fortunate is a sign of improved, rather than decayed, social morality. Readers will draw their own conclusions, but people wanting a quick introduction to one of the most important policy debates in the United States today (and one with significant implications for global power politics, if Eberstadt’s analysis is correct) will do well to consult this useful work.
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