People and Process in Social Security

By Karl De Schweinitz; American Council on Education Committee on Education and Social Security | Go to book overview

2. THE LAW AND THE PROCESS

Laws do not come and progress is not made by a great man having a great idea and then promulgating it. The process of law, and of government in a great republican representative democracy such as we have in this country is a much more complicated process. . . . It is a problem of adjustment, of compromise, of discussion. The decision made to take the action arises out of circumstances which are at hand.

-- FRANCES PERKINS1

ON FIRST SIGHT any comprehensive and well-organized statute appears to state precisely and in detail just what the body which made the law intended. An act of the legislature seems to consist of a succession of exact instructions setting forth who shall be served, what shall be done, who shall do it, and to contain exhaustive definitions of rights and requirements, of conditions and exceptions. The paragraphs follow one another in a cumulating mass of prescription that baffles the unaccustomed reader.

Once, however, one has passed the initial barrier of this kind of extensive specification, he finds that the statute does not contain nearly enough to clarify for him what, in every particular, is intended. Thus, the Social Security Act declares, in Title I, the purpose of enabling each state to furnish financial assistance "to aged needy individuals," but it does not define "need." Under Title II it requires of the states desiring to participate in the system of unemployment insurance methods of administration which are "reasonably

____________________
1
Frances Perkins, "Between the Lines of the Roosevelt I Knew," Washington Post, March 2, 1947, Sec. II, p. 1.

-22-

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