"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 states 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.