The first question most readers undoubtedly will ask is, why publish a new edition of "From Poor Law to Welfare State" at this time? While there are a number of reasons for doing so, there are two compelling, although related, answers to that question. First, the previous edition of this work ended on a rather upbeat, or optimistic, note. President Bill Clinton had just introduced his sweeping proposal to overhaul the nation's health care system, and while many questions about that undertaking remained unanswered, I wrote that "most Americans reacted favorably to the plan and looked forward to the upcoming debate over its specifics." Furthermore, to again quote from the last edition, "there seemed to be bi-partisan support, in and out of Congress, for the notion that the time had come for some sort of universal national health insurance scheme." Obviously, I was wrong, and I am glad to have the opportunity to correct myself -- and to explain why I was mistaken.
Second, and closely related, I also misunderstood, or placed too much faith in, President Clinton and his commitment to helping the needy by getting to the heart of their problems -- and using the federal government to help resolve them. I really believed, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, that Clinton,
unlike his immediate predecessors, who either did not recognize the nation's social problems or refused to face up to them...certainly admits that the nation has many such problems....that it cannot afford to ignore them....and that the public sector can and should help to resolve them. Just as our colonial ancestors viewed their villages and towns as communitiesed their aims. And while theresults of these developments are not yet clear, critics predict that more than 2.5 million citizens, including 1.2 million children, will be thrown into poverty as a result of the change; for reasons discussed in the last chapter of the book, I fear they are correct (although, of course, I hope they are not).
In any event, in addition to the changes alluded to above, I worked hard to revise the text in numerous other ways in order to clarify certain points, as needed, to update some interpretations, where appropriate, and to include new information, where useful. Rather than spell out all those changes, I especially call the readers' attention to the chapters "Child Welfare, " where I inserted a good deal of additional material on recent developments in that field, and "War on the Welfare State, " where I added quite a bit of material on matters of race, especially the publication of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein's "The Bell Curve" (1994), and its implications for social welfare policy. Also, as in the past, I have revised and updated the bibliographies at the end of all of the chapters.
Before closing, let me again take the opportunity to thank The Free Press, especially Philip Rappaport and Caryn-Amy King, with whom I worked most closely, for bringing out a new edition of this work, for allowing me to revise the entire manuscript in any way I saw fit, and for continuing to reprint the prefaces to all the previous editions. The latter is a very costly and unusual gesture which I greatly appreciate -- and which, as I pointed out in the preface to the previous edition, will be of great benefit to the readers; I therefore again urge them to read all of the prefaces.
Copyright © 1994, 1999 by Walter I. Trattner