Is the Welfare State Justified? / Edition 1

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In this book, Daniel Shapiro argues that the dominant positions in contemporary political philosophy - egalitarianism, positive rights theory, communitarianism, and many forms of liberalism - should converge in a rejection of central welfare state institutions. He examines how major welfare institutions, such as government-financed and -administered retirement pensions, national health insurance, and programs for the needy, actually work. Comparing them to compulsory private insurance and private charities, Shapiro argues that the dominant perspectives in political philosophy mistakenly think that their principles support the welfare state. Instead, egalitarians, positive rights theorists, communitarians, and liberals have misunderstood the implications of their own principles, which in fact support more market-based or libertarian institutional conclusions than they may realize. Shapiro's book is unique in its combination of political philosophy with social science. Its focus is not limited to any particular country; rather it examines welfare states in affluent democracies and their market alternatives.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a marvelous, unusual book. It’s one of the few attempts in political philosophy that go beyond examining what principles of justice require, by investigating whether contemporary institutions designed to produce those outcomes actually do better than realistic alternatives. I suspect it will have a large audience not only among normative political theorists, who will find stimulating its challenges to welfare state institutions they have taken for granted, but among policy analysts and public-administration specialists with a reflective bent. It’s a fresh and welcome approach to political theory that could prompt a long-overdue movement to bring theory out of the clouds."
-Jeffrey Friedman, Editor of Critical Review

"This book is an important addition to the debate about the welfare state. The book’s distinctive character is a very strong focus not on the philosophical duel between competiting normative principles, but, rather, on empirical studies about how the institutions under assessment work. Shapiro adds a new twist to the a debate, which, among philosophers, usually involves dueling principles which cannot really inflict wounds upon one another. Shapiro's method for breaking out of the deadlock of dueling principles accounts for the most striking features of his manuscript, its extensive and quite remarkable survey of the social science literature on the operation of the relevant institutions and his integration of this material into arguments for and against the welfare state."
-Eric Mack, Professor of Philosophy at Tulane University

"I can only hope that our policymakers will read Dr. Shapiro's book. His insight on the philosophy of the welfare state outclasses anything that I have read prior."
-David Allen, The State Journal

"The strengths of Shapiro’s approach are twofold. First, he develops his analysis by integrating the insights of two disciplinary traditions...Second, Shapiro explicitly addresses the distinctive normative concerns of egalitarian liberals and communitarians, particularly their insistence that income transfer programmes should prioritize the normative requirements of “social” justice .... In drawing our attention to the possibility that collectivist aims and values can be pursued through a well-designed combination of public and private retirement provision, Shapiro’s book represents an important contribution to the literature, reinforcing the growing recognition among pensions scholars that privatization can be consistent with the normative requirements of justice."
-Mark Hyde & John Dixon, Poverty and Public Policy, 2009

Professor Daniel Shapiro was a Senior Research Scholar of the Social Philosophy and Policy Center during the 2005-2006 academic year and a Visiting Scholar there for the 1995-1996 academic year. The Center's support enabled him to research and complete this book.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521677936
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 7/31/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Shapiro is Associate Professor of Philosophy at West Virginia University. A specialist in political philosophy and public policy, he has published in Public Affairs Quarterly, Social Philosophy and Policy, Journal of Political Philosophy, and Law and Philosophy. In the spring of 2003, he was a Distinguished Visiting Humphrey Lecturer at the University of Waterloo.

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Table of Contents

Preface     vii
Introduction     1
Justification in Political Philosophy     2
Internal Versus External Arguments     8
Clarifying the Institutional Alternatives     10
Coming Attractions     15
Central Perspectives in Political Philosophy     16
Justice, Equality, and Fairness     17
Basic Rights, Liberty, and Well-Being     25
Community and Solidarity     28
Public Justification and Epistemic Accessibility     32
Health Insurance, Part I     35
The Topic's Importance     35
The Institutional Alternatives     36
Egalitarianism and NHI     58
Risks and Choices: Egalitarian Reasons for MHI     67
Rationing, Visibility, and Egalitarian Outcomes: Why Market Allocation Is Better     81
Why the Priority View Agrees with the Egalitarian Support of MHI     106
Addiction, Health Risks, and Voluntariness     112
Health Insurance, Part II     115
Basic Rights and the Right to Health Care     115
Health Care and Communitarianism     133
Public Justification, Information, and Rationing     145
Conclusion: The Reasons for MHI's Superiority     148
Old-Age or Retirement Pensions     151
Introduction     151
The Institutional Alternatives     152
Egalitarianism, Fairness, and Retirement Pensions     169
Positive Rights and Security     177
Community, Solidarity, and Pension Systems     184
Public Justification, Epistemic Accessibility, and the Superiority of Private Pension     190
Conclusion     193
Comparing PAYGO's Rate of Return with a CPP System     194
Welfare or Means-Tested Benefits, Part I     198
Introduction     198
Different Kinds of State Welfare     199
Nongovernmental Aid     201
Egalitarianism and Welfare-State Redistribution     204
Why Prioritarianism Agrees with Egalitarianism about Welfare Policy     232
Will Private Charity Be Enough?     233
Mutual-Aid or Friendly Societies     241
Welfare or Means-Tested Benefits, Part II     243
The Right to Welfare     243
Communitarianism and Welfare     266
Public Justification, Epistemic Accessibility, and Welfare     274
Conclusion: The Uncertain Choice between State and Private Conditional Aid     276
Conclusion     280
Introduction      280
The Problems with SS and the Transition Problem     282
The Cato Plan     286
The Brookings Plan     289
Comparing the Two Plans     292
Where Things Stand     296
Select Bibliography     299
Index     311
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