Welfare debate heats up Tocqueville Project

The role of government in citizen well-being has been a hotly contested issue for generations, and the Toqueville Project on September 14 decided to bring the issue to UNO in the form of a debate between two titans of constitutional law, Roger Pilon, founder and director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies and holder of five senior positions during the Reagan administration and Louis Michael Seidman, professor of Constitutional law at the Georgetown Law Center and author of several books.

The debate was the second installment of the Project’s three part debate series. It offers students and the public an opportunity to learn about the most contentious topics today from academically renowned speakers.

“I think the Tocqueville debates are a unique aspect of the environment at UNO,” says philosophy sophomore Gaetano Venezia. “Organizations like the Tocqueville Project are the primary reason I came to college.”

The welfare state was the primary topic of the evening. Seidman made the argument for robust welfare programs to help those who cannot help themselves. Repeatedly throughout the night, Seidman pushed that he was for government programs that worked, and that he was willing to give anything the axe that was proven to be wasteful no matter how good the intentions.

Pilon’s position argued that no government welfare can be helpful in the end; it will always breed dependence. Pilon staked his claim that if government were to par back their programs, then private charities would step in and help those in need.

Many were in agreement that Pilon seemed to have won debate.

“I would say Pilon won mainly because he brought a lot more evidence and facts to the table whereas Seidman played a more passive aggressive role,” stated international studies senior Kate Donsbach.

She wasn’t the only one who thought so.

“The debate was very lively, with Pilon arguing adamantly for a return to the Constitution while Seidman was on the defensive, arguing for good government programs,” Gaetano concurred. “Pilon’s aggressiveness seemed to win out over Seidman’s uneasy defense.”

The third and final Tocqueville debate will take place on October 24 at 6pm in the Liberal Arts building, room 236. The topic is another contentious area: Religious Liberty and Pubic Education.

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