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"How tethered are you?" That's what Sheldon Richman starts out asking in this indispensable book laying bare "the theory and practice of the welfare state."
Chances are Richman's answer will widen the eyes even of those who think they're familiar with the welfare state’s milestones, such as the New Deal. The author digs deeper, unearthing not just milestones but also the very foundation stones of the welfare state. And he shows how deeply welfare-state thinking has penetrated American society.
Richman unmasks the conceptual trickery inherent in the term "welfare," explains who benefits and who loses from it, and – exploring democracy's dark side -- reveals how wrong it is to claim that the electorate has deliberately voted the welfare state into place. Moreover, he exposes the fraud of recent welfare "reform."
As the author demonstrates, "welfare" isn't just for the poor. It never has been. Two of the foundation stones Richman examines are Bismarckian Germany's "social insurance," which went hand in hand with protection for industry, and post-Civil War America's vast system of veterans pensions, which came in handy for buying votes. And as for the "poor" themselves, readers will discover how hard it is to say, objectively, just who they are.
What distinguishes Richman's account of the welfare state is his own consistent adherence to a philosophy of reason and individual rights. He doesn't compromise -- and he sees clearly how others who would defend freedom have compromised, and fatally. The author doesn't confine himself to attacking welfarism; he also demonstrates the virtue and power of individualism, property, and competition. Richman shows that economic competition is nothing more or less than peaceful cooperation in a climate of freedom.
Thanks to Sheldon Richman, collectivists are going to sound like Flat Earthers the next time they talk about "atomistic individualism." Richman's ingenious and unforgettable riposte -- "molecular individualism" -- is only one example of how this exciting book untethers the mind.
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Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty magazine. His other books, published by FFF, include Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax and Separating School and State: How to Liberate America’s Families. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today. He has been a guest on “Crossfire,” “David Brinkley,” NPR’s “Marketplace,” and the Montel Williams Show.From Booklist:
Where libertarian manifestos are popular, this denunciation of the welfare state from a former Cato Institute senior editor, currently a senior fellow at the Future of Freedom Foundation, will have appeal. (Richman has previously attacked public education in Separating School and State, 1994, and the income tax in Your Money or Your Life , 1997.) His latest book argues that welfare states are, at bottom, simply "engines of paternalistic wealth transfers." Historically, he insists, welfare states were constructed to allow venal politicians to toss bribes to groups of voters. Richman traces the shift, in the U.S., from "rugged individualism" to the welfare state and explores the impact of the Civil War, the rise of the social sciences, and a range of movements and intellectuals. After a chapter on how the poor would benefit if the U.S. abolished its welfare state, Richman closes his argument with the fervent assertion that only the elimination of every element of the welfare state "will remove the tethers that prevent individuals from living completely human lives." Most appropriate for true believers. Mary Carroll
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