...And Economic Justice for All: Welfare Reform for the 21st Century

By Michael L. Murray | Go to book overview
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Introduction

Nothing irritates me quite so much as things that don't make sense. I think our current welfare system doesn't make sense. I believe that most proposals to change it don't make sense. It seems to me that the "guaranteed adequate income" makes a great deal of sense.

How did I, a Professor of Insurance in a College of Business Administration, come to write a book on economic justice with a proposal for dramatic change in our economic system? This may seem particularly out of character when you realize I have been well treated by the economic system in this country. Well, what happened was I extended my basic area of interest (insurance) to teach a course on Social Insurance. In this course, topics such as Social Security (more precisely the Old Age, Survivors, Disability and Health Insurance [OASDHI] program), Unemployment Compensation, Medicare, and Workers Compensation are routinely discussed. In the process of these discussions, I came to the realization that, in order to understand the role these programs play, one must also understand public assistance programs. This category includes Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC), Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicaid. It didn't take many years of studying and teaching these programs before I concluded there is something drastically wrong with the system of public assistance in the United States.

For example, my conservative side recognized that far too much money is being spent administering the system. I ultimately realized that, while most people agree there is something wrong with the system, there is little agreement on what should be the remedy. Any inquiry into the basis for the disagreements over the possible solutions requires an examination of the issue of economic justice.

In my case, that led to the development of an honors course titled "Economic Justice/Income Distribution." The focus of the course was criteria for determining the preferred allocation of scarce resources. Over the years of teaching that course, I discovered a fundamental difference in the way students viewed their fellow human beings, which accounted to a great degree for their opinions on economic justice. This difference related to the issue of fault, and whether those in poverty should be held responsible for their status. I came to realize that this position depended to a great extent upon whether one regarded human behavior as "determined."

In my research for these courses, I encountered an idea which made such good sense I couldn't see why it hadn't been widely accepted. This idea is the guaranteed income. 1 In this book I describe

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