The Tragedy of American Compassion

Regnery Publishing

Can a man be content with a piece of bread and some change tossed his way from a passerby? Today's modern welfare state expects he can. Those who control the money in our society think that giving a dollar at the train station and then appropriating a billion dollars for federal housing can cure the ails of the homeless and the poor. But the crisis of the modern welfare state is more than a crisis of government. Private charities that dispense aid indiscriminately while ignoring the moral and spiritual needs of the poor are also to blame. Like animals in the zoo at feeding time, the needy are given a plate of food but rarely receive the love and time that only a person can give. Poverty fighters 100 years ago were more compassionate--in the literal meaning of "suffering with"--than many of us are now. They opened their own homes to deserted women and children. They offered employment to nomadic men who had abandoned hope and human contact. Most significantly, they made moral demands on recipients of aid. They saw family, work, freedom, and faith as central to our being, not as life-style options. No one was allowed to eat and run. Some kind of honest labor was required of those who needed food or a place to sleep in return. Woodyards next to homeless shelters were as common in the 1890's as liquor stores are in the 1990's. When an able bodied woman sought relief, she was given a seat in the "sewing room" and asked to work on garments given to the helpless poor. To begin where poverty fighters a century ago began, Marvin Olasky emphasizes seven ideas that recent welfare practice has put aside: affiliation, bonding, categorization, discernment, employment, freedom, and most importantly, belief in God. In the end, not much will be accomplished without a spiritual revival that transforms the everyday advice we give and receive, and the way we lead our lives. It's time we realized that there is only so much that public policy can do. That only a richness of spirit can battle a poverty of soul. The century-old question--does any given scheme of help...make great demands on men to give themselves to their brethren?--is still the right one to ask. Most of our 20th-century schemes have failed. It's time to learn from the warm hearts and hard heads of the 19th-century.
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Publisher
Regnery Publishing
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Published on
Feb 1, 1994
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Pages
299
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ISBN
9780895267252
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Poverty & Homelessness
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Marvin Olasky
Compassionate conservatism is a new political force in the land, sweeping the grassroots of people of all faiths, races, and ethnicities. In its parts it offers solutions to many of our most intractable problems; in its whole it is nothing less than an innovative philosophy of government. No author is more qualified to explain its power and promise than Marvin Olasky, described by The New York Times as "the godfather of compassionate conservatism."
Compassionate conservatism offers a new paradigm for how the government can and should intervene in the economy. It begins with a long-lost premise about human behavior: economics, by itself, is not what changes lives. Only faith, and deeply held beliefs, can do that. For decades government has focused only on material well-being, ignoring the passions and convictions that make life worth living. What is conservative about the new movement is that its leaders also know that government cannot instill these beliefs. What it can do is help them flourish. It can give aid, inspiration, and direction to America's natural "armies of compassion" that have been a hallmark of our history since the founding.
Compassionate conservatism offers a way to transcend the root problems that currently oppress too many deserving Americans. It offers a unique vision of the triangular relationship between the state, our many churches, and our tens of thousands of charities. It is a true reinvention of welfare, a wholesale revolution in the welfare state, and a redefinition of the social safety net.
In Compassionate Conservatism Marvin Olasky takes us on a road trip with his son, Daniel, across the country, showing exactly how the new movement is unfolding. Along the way, he offers a set of principles, and a brief tour through history to show that these are not so much radically new ideas as rediscoveries of long-lost wisdom. Read this book for a blueprint of the future of politics and welfare in America.
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