cover image Miles to Go: A Personal History of Social Policy

Miles to Go: A Personal History of Social Policy

Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Harvard University Press, $25 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-674-57440-3

Moynihan, the senior U.S. senator from New York and one of the most distinguished figures on the political landscape today, gives his view of what happened between the Social Security Act of 1935 and the present. In his latest book, he has combined a mix of historical perspective, contemporary comment and personal reminiscences. Of the latter, quite a few could be considered self-congratulatory. The statistics presented are impressive, especially in the areas of welfare, medical, education and voting patterns. However, some do seem a bit fatuous. One of these predicts a revolt of the lowest quartile in aptitude and education against ""the ultimate injustice of a society based upon merit."" Fortunately for those of us who may not be around to witness it, Moynihan doesn't see this uprising occurring until 2031. The social reform of the New Deal, he argues, was successful in aiding Americans for whom poverty was solely a lack of resources (e.g. the elderly). It failed, however, where ""poverty had its origin in social behavior."" He argues that there are no workable European models for us to adopt as we have in the past; and, without being specific about plans, is cautiously optimistic that the country will find policies that will address social inequities and the realities of ""post-traditional society."" Presumably, the author has drawn his title from the classic Robert Frost poem ""Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening."" Like Frost's metaphorical pony, the book tends to meander at times, but it is still well worth the reader's attention. (Oct.)