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Never Enough: America's Limitless Welfare State Hardcover – May 11, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“William Voegeli has taken up conservatism’s primal mission – deconstructing the liberal welfare state – from a fresh perspective, understanding that the liberal project is unbound by limiting goals. This understanding, in turn, allows for real insight into why conservatism never has, and likely never will, succeed in rolling back government. Never Enough is a penetrating piece of analysis, and a most valuable contribution to the political conversation.”

— Peter J. Boyer, Staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992

"Bill Voegeli's insightful and well crafted book explains why Americans are at once dissatisfied with their welfare state yet apparently willing to see it grow without limit, and also why the long running debate between liberals and conservatives over the welfare state has produced ever more confusion about who should benefit and who should pay for government programs. Voegeli, however, manages to frame this argument in a new way and to show how liberals and conservatives can get beyond their fruitless debates in order to place the American welfare state on a more effective and affordable footing. Never Enough is that rare book that makes a new contribution to an old debate and has something important to say to both liberals and conservatives."

— James Piereson, President of the William E. Simon Foundation and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute

“William Voegeli may be the most valuable, engaging and original critic of liberalism writing today. I have been waiting for him to write this book for years. No serious student of contemporary political life will regret their investment in this profound yet eminently accessible work. Never Enough answers questions most people struggle even to articulate.”

— Jonah Goldberg, Author of Liberal Fascism

“Never Enough is a nonpolemical critique of progressive, conservative, and libertarian visions of the welfare state: ‘always more,’ ‘always less,’ and ‘none at all.’ Contending that all three are untenable, William Voegeli offers a highly informative and lucid account of the political and ideological struggles that led to and perpetuate our current unsustainable welfare policies. Beware: whether or not you buy his ‘Pax Voegeli’ compromise, this book will compel you to clarify and wrestle with your own vision of the welfare state.”

— Randy E. Barnett, Author of Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty

“’Every problem deserves a program’: this is a driving liberal impulse that has exponentially increased the size and scope of government, giving rise to the never-enough, prosperity stifling state. In this new book, which channels the realistic spirit of Irving Kristol, William Voegeli argues that the welfare state isn't going to wither away – but we can make it leaner, more effective, and less kleptocratic. An essential work in the development of a twenty-first century conservatism. “

— Brian C. Anderson, Editor, City Journal; author of South Park Conservatives

About the Author

William Voegeli is a visiting scholar at the Henry Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College, and a contributing editor to the Claremont Review of Books. His reviews and articles have also appeared in City Journal, First Things, In Character, the Los Angeles Times, National Review, and The New Criterion. From 1988 to 2003 he was a program officer at the John M. Olin Foundation. He lives in Claremont, CA.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books; First Edition edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594033765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594033766
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gregory G. Simonicni on May 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I begin this review with the opening line of an article from this week's USA Today: "Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds. At the same time, government-provided benefits -- from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs -- rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010." Given this "trend" as USA Today calls it, Bill Voegeli's book couldn't be more timely, if not crucial. Voegeli is a conservative, to be sure. But he understands that just as liberals can no longer try to solve every societal and individual problem with a government program, conservatives cannot ignore some basic societal and individual problems by saying, simply, "we have a philosophy of limited government." Voegeli lays out in clear, accessible prose (backed-up by cogent use of data that the reader will not find mind numbing) how liberals have driven the government-spending juggernaut that now imperils the nation. Readers will come to understand both the underlying liberal theories and slights-of-hand and the financial data that demonstrate how we face a state that can no longer be financially sustained. He also guides conservatives to understand that with the New Deal and Great Society the American social contract between the individual and the state was inalterably changed: middle-class Americans, in particular, really do want programs like Social Security, Medicare, and government-backed student loans (and with the recent oil-spill in the Gulf of Mexico, maybe even a more watchful Interior Dept. and EPA).Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Because the prior enthusiastic reviewers have gone into plenty of detail, I'll just make a suggestion on how to read this splendid book: Start with the brief concluding chapter, "What Do Progressives Want to Progress **To**, and What Do Conservatives Want to Conserve?", for orientation, then go back to the introduction and read straight through.

I didn't read it that way myself, but I make this suggestion to others because Chapters One and Two **are** pretty dry, being a LARGE assemblage of data and commentary on the data. And I fear readers might bog down here, get discouraged, and not read into the "payoff" chapters, i.e. the rest of the book. (Those first two chapters absolutely belong in the book, but reading them was somewhat of a slog, at least for me.)

I do have one more-substantive remark to make: Voegeli is a fellow of the Claremont Institute, as is Charles Kesler, who also edits the Claremont Review. Kesler recently had a fairly long article, "The Stakes of Obamacare," in the Review ([...]). There is some good overlap in thinking between the two authors, so you might first read Kesler's article, freely available online, to see if it interests you, then buy Voegeli's book if the answer is "yes." In particular, Kesler's penultimate paragraph has a similar flavor to Voegeli's closing chapter:

"Obamacare inclines America in the long run to some combination of the following: the sullen acceptance of government-distributed scarcity, envy of people who have more than their fair share of health care, and growing alienation from a system that tries to play God but does so without wisdom, justice, or mercy. These toxic sentiments will be familiar to anyone who has lived under socialism, for they are its concomitants. When added to the caustic effects of dependency on government, they amount to a prescription for an American character increasingly unfit for self-government."
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Format: Hardcover
Never Enough is both a keen, searching critique of the American welfare state and a fair, thoughtful assessment of modern liberalism. The title refers to what the author sees as liberalism's lack of a limiting principle: there is no ideal size to our ever-expanding welfare state, no goal trying to be achieved; just an ineffective, expensive, corrupt mess. Armed with clear prose and tables of data, William Voegeli makes a compelling case that the welfare state is not underfunded but that its funds are misallocated. Aiming for real political solutions and not ideological talking points, he urges conservatives to come to terms with the continued existence of a welfare state, and liberals to begin working toward one that is fundamentally smarter and more efficient, not only to avoid bankrupting the country but to best help those who need the help. A brilliant first book from an author from whom I hope to read more!
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Format: Hardcover
I love reading Bill Voegeli's writing. In fact, I do it for a living, as an editor for the Claremont Review of Books, where he has published wise and beautiful essays every quarter for the last couple of years. Some of these essays contained the seeds of thought and data and analysis that grew into this book--it was exciting to see it growing!

If you care about what Americans ask government, at every level, to do for us; what we should ask and what we have historically asked government to do for us; how much we pay for what we ask for; how much we ought to be willing to pay for it; who pays what and who gets what--if you care about how the next generation is going to afford to repay the debts of this generation--you will want to read this book.

And you will be reminded that it is possible to write about such complicated and grave matters not just with wisdom, but with grace.
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