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Jim Manzi has a long and broad piece on different components of welfare programs at National Review.  Here he frames the key components of welfare programs:

First, welfare programs provide a safety net: a fail-safe provision of important goods that represents some roughly agreed-upon minimum baseline of subsistence for any member of the society. Second, they incorporate some element of risk pooling (and, more generally, economies of scale) beyond what is implied by the safety net: spreading out the costs of falling victim to some horrible disease in old age, for example. Third, these programs also may require prudent behavior on the part of beneficiaries. For example, Social Security requires that wage earners forgo some consumption today in order to provide funds for retirement. Fourth, the programs may redistribute wealth beyond what is required by the first two goals. Fifth and finally, they may be a mechanism for the government to provide certain goods directly, as in the case of traditional public schools.

What I find most interesting is that Manzi, despite invoking Edmund Burke, is proposing a fairly radical re-write of numerous long-existing institutions.  While he favors a phased approach, and admits skepticism of the theories he invokes, his argument is based on the idea that through research, technical analysis, and reasoning, we can make significant improvements to the efficiency and fairness of the economy.  Manzi is embarking on an essentially liberal endeavor.

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