Thursday, March 09, 2006

Cut out the middleman

Howard Husock writes about "Privatizing the Welfare State" in today's WSJ:

“No matter whose priorities prevail in this year’s budget debate, it is a certainty that the federal government will continue to devote billions to activities known as ‘social services.’ These include everything from foster care to drug abuse prevention; indeed, the Administration for Children and Families alone supports no less than 60 such programs at an annual cost of $13 billion, in addition to the cash welfare payments it handles. Billions more are spent on purposes by state and local governments, often through contracts with private ‘providers.’ Robust public debate has developed as to whether other parts of the New Deal legacy still make sense, but the central role of government in providing or paying for social services appears settled – with the only question being how best to achieve efficiency and effectiveness.

"But should this role be considered beyond debate? It is a question worth pondering today because of a historic confluence of circumstances: an impending wave of charitable giving at an unprecedented level; long-term projections of federal deficits, undermining the assumption that social programs can best be funded by government; and a new generation of so-called social entrepreneurs, looking to try creative approaches to help those in need, and do so on a large scale. These circumstances, moreover, emerge in the context of heightened, post-Katrina public dissatisfaction with the quality of government-provided public services. Together, they provide the possibility of imagining a modern society where major social service efforts are provided on a large scale outside the government, through privately funded, not-for-profit charitable organizations. ...

And right on schedule, today's LA Times reports: "Panel Run by Reiner to Be Audited ... Lawmakers react to reports of spending by First 5 California Children and Families Commission on ads for a new preschool initiative ... A state commission founded by Hollywood filmaker Rob Reiner is facing increased state scrutiny ... "

It just may be that money raised from taxpayers "for the children" is being used, instead, to further the political agenda of a well known Hollywood-left actor.

As Husock reminds us, we can be much more other-regarding when we do not involving a third-party Leviathan.