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The Welfare State as a Conservative Institution

The welfare state is a conservative institution and widespread distribution of wealth is also a concervative ideal. Conservatism largely looked to the economic system of medieval Europe and the political system of 18th centruy England as ideal (i.e. parliamentary or representative democracy). These two periods were what traditional conservatism idealized.

In medieval times, the Church provided social welfare through "charity." The provision of healthcare and poverty relief to the masses was a function of the Church. At the same time, the Church was funded through mandatory tithes (income tax) and ground-rent (land tax) on Church-owned property. In the medieval economic system, there was a welfare state run by the Church--and the Church was a public institution funded by taxation. There was also a widespread distribution of property-ownership, such that wealth was not concentrated into the hand of a few elite. This widespread distribution of wealth rather than concentration of economic power was preserved through a relatively progressive tax system, entailing tithing and taxing land value, both of which Edmund Burke supported. In 18th century England, the parliamentary system (approaching republican representative democracy) arose and the British state began to be transformed in the direction of liberal democracy. Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, was a staunch proponent of representation and the deliberative democratic process. Such conservative thinkers as Noel Skelton (constructive conservative), Hilaire Belloc (distributist), and Irving Kristol (neoconservative) were proponents of "property-owning democracy," the widespread distribution of private-ownership (contra excessive accumulation into the hands of the wealthy) as an alternative to socialist public-ownership. Such conservatives as Milton Friedman, F. A. Hayek, Charles Murray, and Irving Kristol were proponents of a Nordic or German-style social insurance welfare State, advocating universal catastrophic insurance or single-payer healthcare alongside universal basic income, minimum income guarantee, or a negative income tax.

So, redistribution of wealth and a robust welfare state are conservative institutions. What passes as "conservatism" in America today has absolutely nothing to do with conservative philosophy at all. People that vote Republican and support Donald Trump have never fucking read Edmund Burke, Irving Kristol, or Russell Kirk. What America needs is a resurgence of genuine conservatism in the Republican Party--a movement based in serious conservative theory, looking to Otto von Bismarck's social reforms and the political theory and ideas of Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Irving Kristol, et all.

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