The Welfare-Warfare State

As I write, the House of Representatives is passing a “supplemental” war-funding bill – an event that one would think ought to be the occasion for a renewed debate on the war, whether to end it or, as John McCain would like, to escalate it. One, however, would be quite wrong. The halls of Congress are virtually silent, this election year, as a war the American people oppose continues and threatens to spread. As for the discussion in the media: check out this piece in The Politico – which is chock full of discussion about the bill’s non-war related add-ons, and barely mentions the war as an issue, except as a bargaining chip.

The Democrats have struck a deal with the White House, essentially giving Bush everything he wanted in terms of more money for his war, and more authority to conduct it as he sees fit, in return for increased social welfare spending. The libertarian social theorist Murray N. Rothbard coined a very useful term to describe what is happening, in this instance: he dubbed modern America a “Welfare-Warfare State,” and surely this Democratic deal with the Devil shows how it works in practice.

The Democrats used the war to seize control of Congress, and have ever since voted to fully fund – indeed, over-fund – U.S. military operations in Iraq and throughout the region. Whether this prefigures how President Obama will deal with the issue – well, you’ve been warned. In any case, this bipartisan love-fest underscores how the two parties are rapidly driving us over the brink of bankruptcy.

As cracks in the basic structure of American capital markets appear, and the entire economic edifice is shaken by seismic economic shifts, the whole idea of an American empire becomes something of a joke. In view of the alarming state of our economic health, all the bellowing and chest-beating coming out of Washington seems like nothing so much as the posturing of a has-been former champion fighter ruined by booze and some sharp blows to the skull.

The dollar is hitting bottom, and the real estate market with it, yet the War Party is telling Americans we have to “liberate” oppressed peoples overseas. Who will liberate America’s homeowners from the looming threat of foreclosure? Who will protect us from the corrosive effects of inflation, which eats up our savings and ravages the economy? Not this government, nor one likely to take office in the near future.

I note that Harry Reid, Senate Majority leader, has yet to endorse the Democratic sellout: he’s probably just waiting until late tomorrow [Friday], when no normal person will be paying attention to the news. This is a done deal: the Democrats don’t care about the war. All they care about is bringing home the goodies to their constituents: it’s simple retail politics. The Republicans, for their part, do care about the war: they are passionate in their defense of it, at least at the leadership level. House GOP leader John Boehner rightly crowed “This bill is a real victory” – and, I might add, a real defeat for the antiwar movement.

It is a defeat in more ways than are readily apparent, because the key provision isn’t about the money – everyone knew that was coming – but in the section of the bill giving the President virtually a free hand in the war’s conduct. It’s like giving your juvenile delinquent son a credit card and a loaded revolver, and then telling him to go out and have a good time.

The Iraq war has rapidly morphed into a looming conflict with Iran, as the administration blames Tehran for foiling its pacification campaign: Washington claims the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are training and funding “special groups” sent into Iraq to make trouble. As a prelude to launching an all-out military attack, the U.S. and its allies are busy devising new means to achieve the economic strangulation of the country, with renewed sanctions and other measures designed to provoke the Iranians into making the first move. Most troubling of all, recent confrontations with the Iranians – in the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere – augur ill for the prospects of peace. Given carte blanche, the President could launch air strikes against Revolutionary Guard bases inside Iran, while credibly claiming to defend our troops in Iraq. Congress, which already voted to designate the Guards as an official “terrorist” organization, could protest, but would have little grounds to do so, since it has already effectively authorized such “hot pursuit.”

As the sand in the hourglass flows inevitably downward, some say Bush’s thoughts turn to the subject of his legacy. He worries, we’re told, about going down in history as the President who stood by while Iran went nuclear. With the Israelis threatening to strike if we don’t, and the War Party in full battle-mode, the President could well override the clear wishes and advice of the military and give the order to attack Iran.

If and when Bush starts World War III, remember that he couldn’t have done it without the invaluable complicity of his Democratic enablers, especially those in Congress. They funded a war that could never be contained within the borders of Iraq, and was bound to drag in neighboring countries – as predicted by many war critics, including this one, well before the invasion.

Sure, I disagree with my liberal antiwar friends on most domestic issues, especially when it comes to the legitimacy and utility of the welfare state. Putting that aside, however, I ask you to look at how little the congressional Democrats allowed themselves to be bought off for!

Aside from an extension of unemployment benefits, and blockage of proposed new Medicaid regulations that would have trimmed the budget, what they got was $63 billion to pay for the college tuition of U.S. soldiers who get through two and three tours of Iraq without suffering severe physical or psychological injury – unlike tens of thousands who aren’t so lucky.

In addition, these benefits will be made available to the soldiers’ spouse and offspring – a measure that reinforces an ominous trend. We are well on our way [.pdf] to consolidating a hereditary warrior class, the future Praetorian Guards of the American empire – although, if we keep spending at this rate, it’s likely to be one of the shortest-lived empires in the history of the world.

Antiwar voters, who voted Democrat last time around, have been betrayed so many times that they’ve stopped noticing it. What may get their attention, however, is the sound of bombs falling over Tehran – but, by that time, alas, it will be far too late….


A reminder: the just-published reprint of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, is out, and it sure is handsome! With a great painting by Jasper Johns on the cover, and a new introduction by Professor George W. Carey of Georgetown University. Here’s what Ron Paul had to say about it:

“When I was deciding whether or not to run for President as a Republican, I re-read Justin Raimondo’s Reclaiming the American Right and it gave me hope—that the anti-interventionist, pro-liberty Old Right, which had once dominated the party, could and would rise again. Here is living history: the story of an intellectual and political tradition that my campaign invoked and reawakened. This prescient book, written in 1993, could not be more relevant today.”

What more do you need to know? Order your copy today.


Psssssst! Hey, over here – yeah, you! Want to know a secret? All the really naughty stuff that won’t let me post is over at … Taki’s Magazine! Go check out my blog post on why the neocons are like the Bourbons, why talking to Hamas is evil if an American President does it, but acceptable when the Israelis do it, and why life in America these days is like a three-ring circus ….

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].