The National Government and Social Welfare: What Should Be the Federal Role?

By John E. Hansan; Robert Morris | Go to book overview

Chapter 13
Redefining the Role of Government: A Work in Progress

Robert Morris and John E. Hansan

By 1994-95 the participants in the Odyssey Forum had come to the conclusion that the changes in political and economic trends were more than transient interruptions on the road to creating an ever more perfect, and perfectible, welfare state in the United States based on the model initially adopted in the 1930s. The preceding chapters in this volume represent the results of our initial effort to explore alternative approaches to dealing with persisting social and economic problems

The months it required to produce the papers, and critique their recommendations, was a small-scale test of a belief that interested and informed citizens could help create a new social policy environment through their pooled, but uncompensated or unreimbursed, efforts to find alternatives to the two positions presented in public debate: (1) a fierce defense of the status quo, which is based on federal-government leadership and a reliance on steadily increasing federal funding; and (2) an equally fierce effort to replace that system with a wholly different model based on less federal responsibility and devolution of policy making to other sectors of society.

To sum up the purposes and guiding conceptions of the contributors to this volume, we can say, in midstream, that the authors share the following beliefs: (1) it may be unavoidable in the age of the information highway to look for consensus before a debate is conducted or rely on opinion polls and focus groups chosen for their likely production of bland consensus, but it is not sufficient; (2) it is unhealthy to be quiet in times such as these; (3) the public values bold ideas that may divide the nation as much as it seeks the quiet of centrist consensus; (4) public services can make a differ-

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