That's Not What We Meant To: Reform and Its Unintended Consequences in the 20th Century

Overview

What does the GI Bill of 1944 have in common with the rent control legislation of the 1940s and 1950s? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the Reagan tax cuts of 1981? You might think these were sweeping legal reforms that greatly improved American society. Or perhaps you view them as stopgap measures intended to right some grave social injustice. What all these instances of reform share, however, whether sponsored by Democrats or Republicans, is wildly unforeseen consequences -- occasionally positive, often ...
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Overview

What does the GI Bill of 1944 have in common with the rent control legislation of the 1940s and 1950s? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the Reagan tax cuts of 1981? You might think these were sweeping legal reforms that greatly improved American society. Or perhaps you view them as stopgap measures intended to right some grave social injustice. What all these instances of reform share, however, whether sponsored by Democrats or Republicans, is wildly unforeseen consequences -- occasionally positive, often regrettable.

"That's Not What We Meant to Do" is about the chasm between good intentions and end results. With a merciless eye for historical absurdity, Steven M. Gillon examines this century's reforms and legal innovation -- federal welfare policy, community mental health, immigration, and campaign finance reform, to name an additional few -- and describes the unintended consequences of their enactment. The result is a brisk, instructive, and disturbing study that will be required reading for all students of government and society, and for anyone who wishes to avoid the perils that stalk legislative bodies.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Gillon (dean of Honors Coll., Univ. of Oklahoma; The Democrats' Dilemma) takes a balanced look at the mixed record of American government activism since the New Deal. He describes the good intentions, tangled legislative history, and unexpected results of such cornerstones of the liberal regulatory state as the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill, affirmative action, and campaign finance reform. These grandiose plans for social engineering foundered largely because Americans expect much from the federal government but are unwilling to grant it the time, authority, or resources to tackle problems in a thoughtful, comprehensive way. Though decrying the bureaucracy and unintended results of liberal social policy, Gillon does not think that the conservative impulse to make no effort to solve social problems is the answer. He urges instead that we continue to experiment while being aware of the potential for unforeseen problems. Gillon concludes that "results we do not like should produce humility, not despair." Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Duncan Stewart, State Historical Society of Iowa Lib., Iowa City Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393048841
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 11
Introduction: American Exceptionalism and the Promise of Unintended Consequences 17
Chapter 1 The Irony of Reform: The Origins of Federal Welfare Policy, 1935 43
Chapter 2 The Politics of Deinstitutionalization: The Community Mental Health Act of 1963 87
Chapter 3 The Strange Career of Affirmative Action: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 120
Chapter 4 Still the Golden Door?: The Immigration Act of 1965 163
Chapter 5 The Politics of Campaign Finance Reform: The Federal Election Campaign Finance Reform Act of 1974 200
Conclusion: A Few Final Observations 235
Endnotes 241
Index 273
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