The left should support the welfare state with a “yes, but”

Steven Welzer
2 min readAug 16, 2021

There will be an election in California to decide whether or not to recall the incumbent Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom. The recall effort likely will be defeated (after all, CA is a very blue state), but there’s a chance a libertarian-conservative candidate, Larry Elder, will win.

He says the same old thing conservatives have been saying since the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson during 1960s resulted in a vastly increased extent of welfare statism in this country: “With our welfare state we have incentivized women to marry government and incentivized men to abandon financial and moral responsibility.”

The left has always countered such argumentation. But we have to wonder this:

If the liberals had majority support to implement such sixty years ago and the results have been observed ever since, wouldn’t you think the debate would have been mostly settled by now? If the welfare statist policies had been disastrous (as the conservatives asserted they would) then they surely would have been abandoned somewhere along the way. If they haven’t been abandoned, you would think the populace in general would be comfortable with their continuance and the issue would have, by now, faded as any kind of priority.

And yet it has not.

And that’s because many people have a gut sensibility that statist dependency is not entirely for the best.

It might be necessary in our current situation, given the irresponsibility of the market economy. But when we defend it we ought to convey some nuance: “It’s necessary in our current situation, given the irresponsibility of the market economy. But a renewal of communitarian self-reliance would be better for all concerned.”

[I check out the Mish Talk (Global Economics / Global Politics) site because I like to get another kind of alternative viewpoint (in addition to all the Green, liberal, and leftist material I read). Mish is a Libertarian.]



Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).