Trends in Social Work, 1874-1956: A History Based on the Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work

By Frank J. Bruno | Go to book overview

27
SOCIAL INSURANCE

THE GERMAN invention of social insurance in 1884, credited to Bismarck, to cover the losses to the worker caused by accident, sickness, and old age, had spread over much of Western Europe by the end of the nineteenth century. It was known and discussed in this country. A full report of "every phase of it" was given at the St. Louis Fair of 1904 ( John Graham Brooks , Proceedings, 1905), and its outlines were probably known to some of the leading social workers. In the early days, however, the Proceedings were not concerned over the debatable features of social insurance. It was still a matter of indifference to Conference members where the cost should rest: on the employer alone; or on both the employer and the employee; or whether the state should share the expense. Nor was there an early discussion of the difference between insurance as a means of meeting the economic costs of these contingencies and a system whereby the cost would be met wholly by the state.

After graduating from the Harvard Divinity School, John Graham Brooks ( 1846-1938) spent three years in Germany and apparently was deeply impressed by what he saw there of the radical economic and political philosophy of the bulk of German workingmen and by the efforts of the government to counteract this unrest through the device of social insurance. He spent the rest of his life lecturing on industrial subjects at various universities, such as Harvard, Chicago, and California. He also acted as special adviser to the Federal Bureau of Labor,

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