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Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980: 10th Anniversry Edition Paperback – 16 Nov 1994
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This classic book serves as a starting point for any serious discussion of welfare reform. Losing Ground argues that the ambitious social programs of the1960s and 1970s actually made matters worse for its supposed beneficiaries, the poor and minorities. Charles Murray startled readers by recommending that we abolish welfare reform, but his position launched a debate culminating in President Clintons proposal to end welfare as we know it.
About the Author
Charles Murray is a Bradley Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is also the author of The Bell Curve.
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Money and status are the most influential rewards that society uses to manage behaviour. The book explains in detail the point that the welfare state reduces the economic penalty of not working by providing an income to non-workers. It also goes on to look at the often overlooked point that the welfare state has eroded the status benefits to working as well. There used to be moral approbation associated with self-reliance and to be a recipient of welfare was degrading. As the number of people on welfare has risen the stigma attached to welfare and the status benefit of working have both decreased. We have similarly lost the useful distinction between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor.
Although the book was written in 1984 it remains relevant today. The number of people claiming welfare benefits continues to grow despite economic growth, so we are still losing ground.
The book does not cover workfare. For a discussion of workfare from the 1980s see Beyond Entitlement by Laurence M. Mead.
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