am 12. Januar 2000
In a short, but very concise work, Dr. Kelley easily lays to rest the multiple moral and ethical claims to the welfare state. By going over the history of the idea, from the 19th century English Poor Laws, up through FDR and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson, he shows how welfare evolved into the "entitlement" it is today. He ilustrates lucidly how the idea of welfare transformed from philanthropic choice, and act of kindness, into its present state as a "right" endowed by the government to the people through their "coercive" actions. He argues that the welfare state was caused by a change of philosophy, from the individualist, classical liberal philosophy to the "new liberal" let's-take-care-of-everyone philosophy. He goes on to say that these welfare "rights" are not rights, but acts of coercion by the government which force people to look out for others in the name of "compassion" and "benevolence." This book is an excellent book for anyone, wether you are against or for the welfare state. He opens eyes and challenges the common presumptions of our modern political, moral and ethical beliefs
am 3. Juni 2000
David Kelley strikes a solid and well placed blow with A Life of One's Own. As Kelley is primarily a philosopher, I expected a primarily philosophical critique of welfare rights. In fact, a considerable portion of the book is presented as historical commentary, largely to demonstrate that the U.S. welfare system was in no way a foregone conclusion. In my opinion Kelley accomplishes this task well.
A Life of One's Own is a concise, logically flowing, well formed and argued piece. By no means a thrill ride, do not look to be dazzled by this book. Kelley makes consistently good points but rarely if ever did I think "WOW!". The chapter on "economic freedom and economic risk" I found to be especially well argued, while on the other hand, I found his section on "community and contract" to be slightly lacking. In this section, it seems that Kelley neglects to deal with the arguments of many recent philosophers who have argued for welfare rights consistently on this basis.
Altogether, I would recommend A Life of One's own both to friends and foes of Kelley's view. For the former as a cogent criticism containing helpful historical insights. And for the latter due to the necessity of being able to deal directly with Kelley's ideas. And finally, as I mentioned before, be aware that a considerable portion of this book (already quite short) is spent on historical dialogue.
am 26. November 1999
Much has been said and written about the welfare state. This book is different, and it is a Must Read for anyone who is serious about understanding cause-effect relationships and why the welfare state has been so demonstrably destructive of the very ends it purports to seek.
Dr. Kelley is a master of formal logic and careful, disciplined thought. As such, this work is the most insightful to date in addressing the fundamental, underlying assumptions that prohibit the welfare state from achieving the stated objectives of its proponents.
If you are FOR the Welfare State, this book is important because it lays out, with facts and relentless logic, why the current system has failed. Hence, if you were going to set about re-designing such a system, this is where you would want to begin: By understanding what DOESN'T work and why.
If you are AGAINST the Welfare State, this book will tend to reinforce your rationale for opposing it. But it does something else. It provides a lot of food for thought concerning how private welfare was once handled in this country and addresses some of the fundamental premises underlying private welfare that made it actually work. It is extremely insightful.
If the book has a weakness, it is that it does not go into enough detail or actual cases studies in private welfare, backed by additional statistics and evidence. I hope that Dr. Kelley will consider strengthening that portion of the book in any future editions, because it provides the right kind of blueprint to make future such efforts more effective, with corresponding benefit to both recipients and society.
So, regardless of your view on the Welfare State, Kelley's book is an important contribution. It should be read by anyone who is interested in this issue, regardless of politial persuasion, and it should be standard required reading in high school sociology/cultural courses for two reasons: (a) It is a sterling demonstration in how to approach and think with clarity and precision about difficult and confusing topics, made accessible to the non-expert, and (b) It provides a cogent and well-reasoned assessment of a current system that impacts every American, and the assumptions that underly it.
am 8. März 1999
As a former liberal, I found Kelley's arguments especially compelling. When I departed liberalism, I recognized that there was something profoundly wrong with the welfare state - that it was somehow unnatural and led to results that were contrary to the expectation of "informed" liberal policy makers. With the arguments presented in this book, I now have a rational basis for understanding why many of the liberal social experiments, especially welfare, have failed. The book is well structured, with the introduction providing a historical framework for an understanding of our modern welfare state. Kelley then proceeds to show how and why arguments for that welfare state are without any rational foundation - specifically (1) the argument from economic freedom; (2) the argument from benevolence; and (3) the argument from community. By invalidating each of these arguments in turn, Kelley demonstrates that the current welfare state is not only without a rational basis - but that it actually is contrary to the liberal individualism upon which this nation was founded. I definitely recommend the book to those who wish to shore up their opposition to the welfare state and America's creep towards socialism. I also recommend the book to those who defend liberal social policies so that they will be confronted with Kelley's powerful arguments and by necessity either defend or abandon the liberal welfare state.
am 12. November 1998
A LIFE OF ONE'S OWN by David Kelley (Cato Institute, 1998) reviewed by Jim Powell
Threatened with budget cuts, powerful interest groups are stridently defending their entitlement claims on taxpayers. Some demand your life as well as your money. One promoter of entitlements asserts that "forced labor can be a morally acceptable state policy." Another goes farther, saying you should be forced to give up body parts, such as a kidney, if government decides somebody else needs them enough.
In this timely book, Institute for Objectivist Studies Executive Director David Kelley offers one of the most insightful discussions of rights and entitlements that we've seen. He explodes the idea that entitlement "rights" are an extension of the historic struggle for liberty. He shows why, on the contrary, entitlement "rights" are a relatively recent phenomenon which sanction servitude and slavery.
While Kelley considers practical consequences of entitlement "rights," the thrust of his case is moral. Government, he says, "is facing a crisis, as the pathologies bred by dependence on welfare become more and more severe. In part, it is a financial crisis, as the costs of entitlements rise faster than the revenues available. At root, however, the crisis is moral--it a crisis of legitimacy--and the fundamental issue in this crisis is whether people do indeed have a right to public support."
Kelley presents his case with refreshing clarity and grace. Entitlement "rights," he explains, "impose positive obligations on others. If a person has a right to food, come what may, then someone else has an obligation to grow it. If the first person cannot pay for it, someone else has an obligation to buy it for him. . . . It must therefore impose on others the obligation to ensure that outcome. . . . Granted that the strong should not prey on the weak, where do the weak get the right to be carried by the strong?"
Kelley surveys Western experience to show how widespread acceptance of entitlement "rights" wasn't driven by events. If it weren't for collectivist ideas, there might never have been modern vampire states. Consequently, Kelley rejects the defeatism of many conservatives lamenting that entitlements are here to stay. His lively chronicle of key individuals who campaigned for entitlements suggests that an equally dogged campaign for liberty could triumph. Kelley brings Objectivist principles to a new level of sophistication. Everyone can benefit from his bold t h i n k i n g
am 7. Dezember 1998
Philosopher David Kelley has written a masterful--and incredibly convincing--book. Kelley examines the modern welfare state going back as far as the first English Poor Laws in the 1600s to FDR, to LBJ, and examines the impact that government wealth redistribution schemes have had. He then meticulously examines the reasoning behind the welfare state, presenting each argument that has been offered in its support in a fair, objective manner and shows, shockingly, how all of the arguments are morally bankrupt. He concludes with a very convincing case that human rights, dignity and benevolence can only prosper in a society free from a paternalistic welfare state. Dr. Kelley is a brave intellectual--one who not only is incredibly sharp, but who is also not afraid to tell the truth.
Even if you find yourself predisposed to support the ideas behind the welfare state (and Kelley may change your mind,) this book is required reading. The arguments presented in _A Life of One's Own_ must be dealt with by anyone who supports the modern welfare state. Considering the importance of this issue and the brilliance of the writing, the book is a steal at $8.00!
am 27. Oktober 1998
How dare David Kelly attack welfare? Using demeaning terms like, poor people, Kelly becomes an imcompasionate fool. The majority of us don't know about poverty. But, then it is our to use it to help people is evil. This book ignores the needs of welfare and even says it responsibilty to help- in terms of welfare or other social programs. Somebody has the power help. Pretending they don't so they don't need encourages "perverse" actions. David Kelly, I'm sure an acomplished author and financially secure, has no right to make a judegemnt of this type. He doesn't need to worry about the bare essentials. For those who would like a true, harsh, and raw persepctive from, as Kelly puts it, the poor, please read "Amazing Grace" by Jonathan Kozol. I would like to see how Kelly would respond after being in the shoes of the people in the slums and ghettos.
Kelly may not be evil, but his intentions are wrong and only in his self interest.
am 14. Dezember 1998
Who owns your life? God? The government? A guru? No. You do. Must we live lives of religion, for society, by altruism? No, again. Live life fully: for yourself first, by the guidance of reason, grounded in objective principles, and with beneficence. This righteously self-serving suggestion rests solidly on the firmest of ethical, intellectual, and historical foundations. So proves philosopher David Kelley in "A Life of One's Own." But Kelley's message is even better still! The serendipitous side effect of rational non-selflessness is greater social well being overall. When you are thoughtfully squeezing every ounce of enjoyment and profit from life, the net result will be a better, more prosperous, and happier world for us all. Too good to be true? No way. Get the book. Read it. Celebrate life anew, unfettered by conventional wisdom and reinvigorated by solid understanding.
am 30. November 1998
Who owns your life? God? The government? A guru? No. You do. Must we live lives of religion, for society, by altruism? No, again. Live life fully: for yourself first, by the guidance of reason, grounded in objective principles, and with beneficence. This righteously self-serving suggestion rests solidly on the firmest of ethical, intellectual, and historical foundations. So proves philosopher David Kelley in "A Life of One's Own." But Kelley's message is even better still! The serendipitous side effect of rational non-selflessness is greater social well-being overall. When you are thoughtfully squeezing every ounce of enjoyment and profit from life, the net result will be a better, more prosperous, and happier world for us all. Too good to be true? No way. Get the book. Read it. Celebrate life anew, unfettered by conventional wisdom and reinvigorated by solid understanding.
am 3. Februar 1999
In this book David Kelley lays out with remarkable clarity the history and philosophical underpinnings of the welfare state. Kelley's style, besides being extremely lucid, is dispassionate and fair. He brings to the question considerable analytical abilities and puts them to use, thereby showing the notion of "positive rights" to rest on a conceptual muddle. He makes a strong and convinving case for the morality of individualism, and a social ethic of individual responsibility and voluntary association and aid. Opponents of welfare will find themselves edified. Defenders of welfare will find themselves challenged. Highly recommended.