Social Democratic America

Lane Kenworthy. Oxford Univ., $27.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-19-932251-0
In this well-argued and fact-driven treatise, Kenworthy (Progress for the Poor), a professor of political science and sociology at the University of Arizona, makes a convincing argument for government-sponsored social programs. "Social programs," he claims, "provide economic security, enhance opportunity, and ensure rising living standards." Citing the familiar (Social Security, Medicare) as well as the less-obvious (public schools and affirmative action), Kenworthy argues that "social policy is actually public insurance" against the risks of a capitalist economy. He defines social democracy as the "commitment to extensive use of government policy to promote economic security, expand opportunity, and ensure rising living standards," while "facilitating freedom, flexibility, and market dynamism," and points to the Nordic countries as a model for how America can balance "flexibility and security, competition and social justice." Indeed, he contends that American social policy has always moved towards this end, beginning with the New Deal in the 1930s, and that despite the extreme divisiveness in government today, the progress will continue as Americans reap the benefits. This is a reasonable, worthwhile addition to the national debate over government's role in social policy. 51 b&w illus. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/16/2013
Release date: 01/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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