Poverty in America: The Welfare Dilemma

By Ralph Segalman; Asoke Basu | Go to book overview
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5. Moralism Freedom versus control
6. Integrity Self-reliance versus dependency
7. Ascription Performance versus quality

Tropman proceeds to compare these values with the "subdominant" welfare values, and he concludes that "we thus can expect programs aimed at helping the poor to be in a state of constant crisis and perpetual perplexity, primarily because the poor are continually threatening dominant values in America" (p. 80).

Glazer (p. 12) sees the role of the sociologist as falling somewhere between that of the economist and reformer. Much of the reformist tradition has recently come to mean the transformation of various social programs into a collectivized welfare package. This mistaken liberal tradition has indeed confused the sources of equality, for the notion that equates liberty with equality is a false one. In providing a milieu of free choice, America promulgates a liberal ideology that will define and seek to solve the problem of poverty in the context of a struggle for egalitarianism. A plethora of welfare measures to attack poverty will be of no avail if we choose to misread the social basis of democracy. The history of this nation amply demonstrates that social choices are at the heart of individual liberty. Government-initiated programs can and must enhance, through structural measures, the individual's choices to seek socioeconomic upgrading, thus alleviating poverty. It can do no more. Our choice is a right to liberty, not a justification of equality. Tocqueville's insight into the cardinal premises of liberty still stands today as a benchmark for the American democracy. Welfare programs directed specifically at coping with poverty should be mindful of this nation's fundamental premise.


Bedeau Hugo Adam. "Egalitarianism and the Idea of Equality." Pp. 16- 25, in Roland Pennock and John W. Chapman (eds.), Equality. New York: Atherton, 1967.

Blau Peter, and Otis Dudley Duncan. The American Occupational Structure. New York: Wiley, 1967.

Friedman Milton. Capitalism and Freedom. Chicago: University Press, 1963.

Glazer Nathan. "A Sociologist's View of Poverty." Pp. 12-26, in Margaret S. Gordon (ed.), Poverty in America. San Francisco: Chandler, 1965.

Harbison F., and C. A. Myers. Education, Manpower, and Economic Growth: Strategies of Human Resource Development. New York: Mc- Graw-Hill, 1964.


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Poverty in America: The Welfare Dilemma


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