The American Welfare System: Origins, Structure, and Effects

By Howard Gensler | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Welfare Policy: Point and Counterpoint

D. Eric Schansberg

Various arguments are made for and against varying degrees of income redistribution to the poor, reflecting underlying ideological positions and assumptions. I examine the importance of ideology with respect to helping the poor and its historical evolution, which eventually led to current welfare programs. The results of the government's War on Poverty are evaluated, and the chapter concludes with possibilities and prospects for reform.

13.1 The Notion of Fairness

Proponents of income redistribution to the poor usually invoke a version of equity or fairness by arguing that current economic outcomes are unjust and should be altered through government income transfers. Two general underlying philosophical approaches yield this conclusion: contractarianism and utilitarianism.

Contractarianism is best illustrated with a thought experiment developed by John Rawls. 666 Imagine that your income is determined randomly from the set of people living in the United States. Rawls argued that rational, risk-averse individuals would prefer a certain chance at a middle level of income to a gamble that results in either a high income or abject poverty. This preference implies that some form of social insurance or income redistribution resulting in greater income equality should be pursued by society. 667 All things equal, people prefer a greater degree of income equality than exists naturally. At least to some extent, people prefer efforts to equalize incomes.

The goal of utilitarianism is to maximize the "utility" (well-being) of society, as measured by the sum of the utilities of that society's individuals. Given diminishing marginal utility -- the fact that individuals receive less and less satisfaction from each additional unit of the goods they consume --


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The American Welfare System: Origins, Structure, and Effects


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 298

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?