War on Poverty or War on the Poor?

  • Jan 14, 2020
  • 12:00 Pacific Time (US & Canada)



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War on Poverty or War on the Poor? 

The Great Society’s Welfare State.

Today, a battle is raging in the U.S. Many Americans have become attracted to socialism and economic redistribution while opponents argue for less government, free markets and greater choice. In the 1960s, Americans sought the same goals many seek now: an end to poverty, higher standards of living for the middle class, a better environment and more access to health care and education. Then, too, America debated public-sector entitlement versus private-sector advancement. Time and again, whether under John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, or Richard M. Nixon, the country chose more and more government. Yet achieving these goals has been elusive at best. What’s more, Johnson’s and Nixon’s programs have shackled millions and millions of families in permanent government dependence and brokenness.

In this special Independent Institute event and based on her new book, Great Society: A New History, #1 New York Times bestselling author Amity Shlaes will show that the costs of the Big-Government entitlement commitments made a half century ago are blocking the very opportunities needed now and in the future for all Americans, especially the most disadvantaged.

In Great Society, Ms. Shlaes offers a powerful companion to her legendary, bestselling history of the 1930s, The Forgotten Man, and shows that in fact there was scant difference between two presidents many people consider opposites: Johnson and Nixon. Just as Big Government technocratic planning by “the Best and the Brightest” made failure in Vietnam inevitable, so planning by a team of the domestic "best and brightest" has guaranteed a fiasco at home. Great Society sketches moving portraits of the characters in this transformative period, from U.S. Presidents to UAW leader Walter Reuther, the founders of Intel Corporation, and Federal Reserve System chairmen William McChesney Martin and Arthur F. Burns. Great Society casts new light on other figures too, from Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, to the socialist Michael Harrington and California protest leader Tom Hayden.

Drawing on her economic expertise and deep historical knowledge, Ms. Shlaes upends the conventional narrative, providing a devastating indictment of the consequences of thoughtless and misguided idealism with striking relevance for today. Great Society captures a dramatic contest with lessons both dark and bright for how we can and should now proceed.

Great Society: A New History

“Original and persuasive . . . Ms. Shlaes’s chronicle is not just a story of how good people’s good intentions went wrong. It is also a story of how the assumption that the near future will closely resemble the recent past can lead even the best intentioned and most well-informed people to pursue policies that turn out to be mostly counterproductive and often destructive.”—Wall Street Journal

Great Society is accurate history that reads like a novel, covering the high hopes and catastrophic missteps of our well-meaning leaders.”—Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve System

“This well-researched and smoothly written masterpiece sheds a badly needed lesson-laden light on one of the most important and turbulent times in American history. Shlaes has rendered a book for the ages.”—Steve Forbes, Chairman of Forbes Media LLC and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Magazine

“Shlaes’s account of America in the 1960s recalls her 2007 The Forgotten Man about America in the 1930s, and finds—guess what?—a complicated nation. The author writes with a free style, including information on lesser-known figures of the era, as well as an interesting assessment of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.”—Washington Post

“A provocative, well-argued take on a turbulent era.”—Kirkus Reviews

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