Unemployment Insurance: The American Experience, 1915-1935

Unemployment Insurance: The American Experience, 1915-1935

Unemployment Insurance: The American Experience, 1915-1935

Unemployment Insurance: The American Experience, 1915-1935

Excerpt

Americans, like citizens of other economically advanced nations, long ago recognized the need to provide temporary relief to men who were thrown out of their jobs during depressions. But unlike citizens of the major European nations, most Americans had considerable difficulty understanding the need for a long-term program, created with the same objective but in anticipation of, rather than in response to, unemployment. The purpose of this book is not to probe the reasons for this reluctance to embrace unemployment insurance; if this were its objective, it would duplicate the work of many other historians. Rather, its purpose is to show how and by whom this reluctance was overcome and how the results, the unemployment insurance legislation of the mid-1930's, reflected the interests and ideas of the people who played major roles in bringing about the change.

Perhaps unlike other social welfare programs of that time or this, unemployment insurance appealed primarily to specialists. It was designed largely for industrial workers and the employers of industrial workers and they, quite logically, took the greatest interest in it. Economists, labor legislation experts, and proponents of social insurance legislation were also involved in its development; but since unemployment insurance was considered separately from relief and since "good" and "evil" were seldom apparent in the discussion of the issues, there was at first relatively little popular interest in the subject. The Depression of the 1930's changed this situation and shifted the focus of the debate from what type of unemployment insurance was desirable to what type of legislation was desirable. After 1930 this debate became part of the larger discussion of government action to meet the economic and social crisis produced by the Depression. Ap-

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