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Monday, May 09, 2005

The entitlement society

Leon Panetta wrote an opinion piece for the Monterey Herald this weekend under the title, "Where is the battle for ideas?" He suggested framing the left vs right debate in terms of five dualities, such as "Protect 'Guaranteed Benefits' vs. 'Private Accounts' for social security. As long as promised benefits grow faster than GNP grows, there WILL be an (unhappy) end to this short-sightedness.

His dualities are derivative, derivative of more fundamental conflicts such as "the entitlement society" vs the sans-safety net societies of Eastern Europe and China. Or such as free markets vs mercantilism (government-subsidized business). Or government bureaucracy vs entrepreneurialism, of either profit or nonprofit kind. Or the relative power of the judiciary and legislature.

Panetta's dualities assume away all the important questions about our governance, particularly those that will determine our national competitiveness four decades hence.


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