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The Tragedy of American Compassion Paperback – March 10, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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
That's basically the argument of Marvin Olasky in The Tragedy of American Compassion (Wheaton: Crossway Books, c. 1992), a treatise which deserves our attention. Olasky is a professor at The University of Texas and editor of World magazine. He blends ample research (as befits a professor) with readable prose (as befits a journalist).
As the book's title indicates, "compassion" in America has taken some "tragic" turns, devouring the very people it allegedly helps. The means to "suffer with," thus personally identifying with and caring for persons who have needs. But recently "compassion" has come to mean "feel for" victims of inequitable social systems. As used by newspapers in the 1980's, it became "a synonym for 'leniency'" (p. 196) and justified everything from grade inflation to trivial sentences for murderers to massive punitive awards in civil cases.
Similarly, people living in poverty no longer have "needs." They have "entitlements." Rather than asking for help, they're encouraged to demand their "rights.Read more ›
Having said that, Olasky is a unrealistic to think that good people will fill the void. They won't. What needs to change is the whole possession-worship, or dollar worship that we all buy into. Gerry Spence calls it "...the New King that America has crowned. His blood is green....." Property kills the godly impulse of generosity that we were all born with. Don't leave it to the gummint to love your fellow-man.
Marvin Olasky is a conservative, no doubt. But before you decide to tar-brush the man, listen to him.
True compassion (feeling or suffering with) involves dealing with these people in person. Government programs have just made the problem worse; they have prevented getting help to these people.
Compassion involves getting to know these people and care about them. They don't need any more people to hand out damned blankets and food. There are people lining up to do this.
Go have lunch with some 'homeless', learn their names and personalities. Here's a picture of a real homeless person as opposed to the mental pictures most people have: Joe the programmer has the knowledge and experience to make $75/hr easily. Everytime he gets comfortable materially, he goes on a bender and ends up in an emergency room or the police pick him out of the gutter. He goes through another bout of homelessness having lost everything again. One of these benders is going to kill Joe. Joe knows it, I know it, all God's children know it. This time Joe has a good sponsor, is working his program hard and is working as a foot messenger downtown to avoid the problems of affuence that trip him up. This is a heroic story of struggle against terrible demons, far better than Star Wars. I am priviliged to know Joe. There are many stories like this.
Did you know you can live in a rental storage shed for $20/month? Dry, clean with electricity. Some homeless have favored this, although you have to climb a chain link fence to go out at night and get back in.
If you care about people like this and want to really help, read Marvin Olasky's book first, then go do the right thing.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was an extremely interesting book, but I feel like there should have been more detail on the organizations that advocated for welfare in the later parts of the 20th century. Read morePublished 6 months ago by B Lulunsky
This book just echoed what should be called a religious-driven mental plague. It represents a chauvinism of a form of mental disease that disguises itself in the name of love and... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Methaya Sirichit
Hand up not a hand out..What an old fashioned and timely message~~~~Published 8 months ago by Linda Lou
Great read about the failure of the system might to offer a necessary hand up out of poverty.
It has been a dismal failure.
Great service from the supplier.
I should have read this years ago.
This is the history of private charity and early efforts at local government charity, starting in colonial times and running up to our... Read more