AN EXAMINATION of the amount spent and the systems of relief and social insurance established from 1933 to 1938 has led to the conclusion that the ultimate compromise effected between the need and the ability principles in the United States gave greater weight to the ability principle, reflected in the shift from FERA to WPA and in the provisions of the Social Security Act. With regard to the distribution of relief funds under the FERA Mr. Hopkins had said that ". . . the primary consideration in determining allotments is need . . . need among the unemployed."1 Statements such as this reveal the intention of Federal relief administrators at that time (early 1935) to make need the major basis of the distribution of relief funds. That discretion was lodged in the hands of the Administration arose from the fact that in passing the Federal Emergency Relief Act Congress departed from the traditional method of distribution of state grants-in-aid by means of a formula.
There were Federal administrators who were even more eager than Mr. Hopkins for a distribution based upon need. Considering the strong impetus which the need principle had had in 1933 and 1934, it is worth investigating why it did not prevail over the ability principle. Long before distribution according to need had been given up in theory, the allocation of FERA funds had departed widely from ideal distribution ac____________________