Conservatives and the Welfare State

C. Gregg Singer says of the Eisenhower era:

On the other hand, many Americans had become so accustomed to the presence of the welfare state and many forms of governmental intervention in the economic and social life of the people that even conservatives were unable to shake off the lure of its presence and the belief that the government should play an important if not a decisive role in shaping the destinies of the nation. It is evident that this conservatism lacked a firm theological foundation, and these conservatives were inclined to conduct their political activities on the basis of the claim that conservative Republicans could and should administer the liberal programs already inaugurated in the Roosevelt and Truman era because they could make them more effective and, at the same time, hold in check their potentially dangerous consequences.

That such claims were not only contradictory but even bordered on the absurd never seem to dawn upon those making them and upon the so-called “moderate” Republicans who assumed leadership in the Eisenhower era. As a result, these moderates found it very difficult to withstand the popular clamor for more and more government intervention in the economic life of the nation, and for more welfare programs.

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