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The Tragedy of American Compassion Paperback – March 10, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
This is a richly documented, controversial history of the welfare state as seen from a conservative political perspective. The system is generous with money but stingy on human involvement, argues Olasky, a University of Texas journalism professor: compassion means tough love in which those who give must demand self-help from those who receive. But Olasky adds a proviso that the giver too must be personally involved. He holds up the example of 19th-century charity workers, whose religious beliefs made them compassionate and willing to deal intimately with the poor, rather than dispensing money to them through government agencies. There's plenty of social history here--from Horace Greeley, soup kitchens and orphan asylums to today's homeless impasse. Olasky does not blame the system for poverty. He faults the poor, along with social workers back to Jane Addams and the founders of the settlement house movement.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"One of the 50 most influential policy books of all time."
"A richly documented, controversial history of the welfare state."
"Significant changes in government social welfare policy have unfolded since The Tragedy of American Compassion emerged in 1992-just think about the paradigm-shifting federal welfare reform of 1996. Both the book's critics and its promoters would argue that Olasky's ideas mattered and gave shape, to some degree, to some of those changes."
—Amy L. Sherman, Senior Fellow, Sagamore Institute for Policy Research; author, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good
"Those who read and understand Olasky's work will be better prepared to move creatively in affirming the dignity of the poor, and in affirming work as a virtue."
—John M. Perkins, President, John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development
"For domestic policy understanding, no better book recommends itself than Marvin Olasky's splendid The Tragedy of American Compassion."
—Orange County RegisterOrange County Register
"One of 'eight books that changed America.'"
—Colorado Gazette-TelegraphColorado Gazette-Telegraph
—Wall Street JournalWall Street Journal
"There is no disagreement between liberals and conservatives about whether to help the lot of the poor, but there is grave disagreement about how to help them, especially because the wrong kind of 'help' is more likely to harm. In The Tragedy of American Compassion, Marvin Olasky shows that although government can assist the merciful efforts of persons, organizations, and communities of faith, it cannot take their place."
—J. Budziszewski, Professor of Government and Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin; Author of What We Can't Not Know: A Guide
"A comprehensive, well documented, and much needed study of the decline of true compassion that provides fresh analysis and provocative insight into the causes and cures of this American tragedy. Must reading for people who want to understand and help correct the plight of hurting people."
—Anthony T. Evans, Founder, The Urban Alternative
Top customer reviews
This is the history of private charity and early efforts at local government charity, starting in colonial times and running up to our present day.
Most college textbooks seem to dismiss this part of our history. Many people, including in academia, are simply unaware that combating poverty did not begin with L.B. Johnson's War on Poverty or FDR's New Deal.
This corrects that blind spot.
It also addresses the imbalances in our current approach to poverty.
Why did relative poverty plummet precipitously from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s, then level off for the next 45 years, after the government began pouring trillions into efforts to eradicate it?
How did the word compassion -- which means 'suffering with' -- come to mean merely 'feeling sorry for'?
What role should character and behavior play in alleviating personal poverty?
Why don't government agencies live by the preamble to the Hippocratic Oath -- first, do no harm?
How did turn of the century (1900) Utopianism, and scriptural revisionism, especially among mainline protestant churches, reshape political perspectives on poverty?
This book is succinct, clear, well-documented, and crucial for helping us to escape the unsustainable, counter-productive 'war on poverty', and to move toward an historically-proven, personally-engaging compassion that unites society as it preserves human dignity, ennobling the giver and receiver alike.
Live the Freedom,
The "evidence" about the issues surrounding welfare in the U.S. are laid out here. From reading and considering what Olafsky wrote, you can then have an informed opinion, not simply spout politically correct platitudes.
This is neither easy nor hard reading but it is compelling.
This reviewer is someone deeply involved in public policy for healthcare. I found this book most useful and informative.