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To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (August 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199858551
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199858552
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,331,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"One of the greatest secrets of American history is that Americans have from the very beginning relied on government to improve their nation, help it grow, and make it more just. An energetic government is not simply consistent with keeping our country free, but actually essential to expanding our liberties and our personal possibilities. The authors make their arguments so clearly and so well that Tea Party members willing to grapple with To Promote the General Welfare might find themselves changing their minds. This is an excellent book that is also perfectly matched with our political moment." -E.J. Dionne, author of Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent

"To Promote the General Welfare injects a welcome note of realism into our hyperbolic public discourse. Because government in the United States has usually functioned out of sight, Americans have constructed a mythology of private enterprise and individualism and forgotten that the free market depends on the rule of law, state-funded infrastructure, and state-sponsored support of citizens' initiatives. From the earliest provision of security and infrastructure through social security and the GI Bill to medicare and middle-class housing, health, and education subsidies, these first-rate historians demonstrate that public-private partnerships have always been the American Way." --James Kloppenberg, Charles Warren Professor of American History, Harvard University

About the Author

Steven Conn is Professor and Director of Public History at Ohio State University. His books include Do Museums Still Need Objects?, Metropolitan Philadelphia: Living with the Presence of the Past, and History's Shadow: Native Americans and Historical Consciousness in the Nineteenth Century. He is the founding editor of the online magazine Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Frank T. Manheim on October 14, 2012
Format: Paperback
From its jut-jawed partisan-boosting title and Democratic political blogs that promote this book as an antidote to conservative dogma one could assume that it is dedicated to celebrating big government and proposing that we get more of it. Not quite. This and the huge markdown of the paperback ($17) from the hardback book ($72) suggests that at least the publishers if not authors had an eye to election-year sales to the core Democratic faithful.

As a policy researcher exploring thinking among various groups across the political spectrum I didn't expect Brian Balogh's nuanced thinking in the opening chapter (easily the best): "Looking for Government in All the Wrong Places". Maybe he's a mole from centrist Democratic groups, or it's just out of the box thinking attributable to his Hungarian ethnic background (judging by the name). In any event a key point in Balogh's essay is that Americans have always preferred "indirect" to "direct" government. By this he means local and state, rather than federal government. Moreover, he suggests that needed social action incorporating flexible combinations of private, state, and federal government involvement are likely to be much more efficient than if the federal government is in charge - something that he suggests Democrats would be wise to recognize.

On the other hand, the last chapter of the book presents a long list of Congressional laws passed since World War with almost childlike pride in the many wonderful things that the laws "did" for society. That some or many of these laws didn't do what they were intended to do, were dysfunctional, or did other things like opening up angry conflict and provoking counterreactions never seems to occur to the author.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Buck on November 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent rebuttal to the conservative argument that less government is best government. It also is a realistic look at how much government is involved in our everday lives. So much of what we consider the free market is supported by government, so many of the protection we citizens take for granted are supported by government regulation. It is a real wake up call to those who insist we reduce government in an age of complex and growing problems that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
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