The reform of the welfare state is going to require courage, intellectual honesty and a willingness to admit that cherished beliefs were wrong.
Politically, many of my friends are a little left of centre. I observe them having great difficulty coming to grips with the moral failures of the welfare state and its financial unsustainability. This is quite understandable. Their beliefs about social fairness are deeply held but seldom subjected to rational debate.
The following quote from Yuval Levin, Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington clearly articulates what is wrong. It is a good starting point for serious discussion of issues that cannot be ignored and must be addressed.
"Moreover, because all citizens - not only the poor - become recipients of benefits, people in the middle class come to approach their government as claimants, not as self-governing citizens, and to approach the social safety net not as a great majority of givers eager to make sure that a small minority of recipients are spared from devastating poverty, but as a mass of dependents demanding what they are owed.
It is hard to imagine an ethic better suited to undermining the moral basis of a free society."
For more, read my book The Fragility of Freedom: Why Subsidiarity Matters