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Values and Public Policy / Edition 1

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It is not uncommon to hear that poor school performance, welfare dependancy, youth unemployment, and criminal activity result more from shortcomings in the personal makeup of individuals than from societal forces beyond their control. Are American values declining as so many suggest? And are those values at the root of many social problems today?

Shaped by experience and public policies, people's values and social norms do change. What role can or should a democratic government play in shaping values? And how do these values conditon the efficacy of public policy?

In this book, six distinguished social scientists identify trends in America's values and their consequences, and consider public policy tools with which some of those values might be changed.

Daniel Yankelovich begins with a discussion of how American values have shifted in the last half-century, and argues that affluence is the driving force behind these changes in values. James Q. Wilson argues that destructive habits which can lead to social pathologies, like crime and drug use, are set early in life; he examines how public policy might intervene when children are young to promote better values. David Popenoe maintains that America has veered too far towards industrialist values, and explores the resulting decline of families and many attendant social ills. Nathan Glazer describes the history and present status of the dispute over multicultural education. Jane Mansbridge examines the process of building cooperation, consensus, and public spirit. And George Akerlof and Janet L. Yellen discuss the problem of gang criminality.

Inthe past, social scientists have often sidestepped questions about values as undefinable, unquantifiable, and somehow unscientific. The essays in this volume address these questions at last.

Henry J. Aaron, director of the Economic Studies program at Brookings, is the authorof numerous books, including most recently Serious and Unstable Condition: Financing America's Health Care (1991), and coeditor of Setting Domestic Priorities (1992). Thomas E. Mann is director of the Brookings Governmental Studies program, coeditor of Media Polls in American Politics (1992), and coauthor of the Renewing Congress series (1993). Timothy Taylor is managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives at Stanford University.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As the editors explain, more and more scholars believe that values ``condition the efficacy of public policy,'' and these six essays from eminent social scientists offer provocative and valuable arguments. Daniel Yankelovich explains how ``fear of loss of affluence'' has led to a new American pragmatism toward politics and problem-solving. James Q. Wilson argues that the ``underclass'' is a product not just of economics but of influences that weaken self-control and concern for others; he suggests that parent-training programs, and mother-child group homes might better socialize young men. David Popenoe warns against American ``overindividualism''; to promote intact nuclear families, he proposes ``family friendly'' work schedules and efforts to hinder hasty divorces. Nathan Glazer calls for a cautious path to multiculturalism, and George Akerlof and Janet L. Yellen observe that fighting gang crime may depend more on community willingness to help police than on vigorous policing. Aaron directs the Economic Studies program at Brookings, and Mann directs the Governmental Studies program there; Taylor is managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. (Jan.)
A collection of essays by social scientists identifying trends in American values and their consequences. Subjects discussed include how changes in the economy reshape values; culture, incentives, and the underclass; cultural change and public policy regarding the family; public spirit in political systems; multiculturalism and public policy; and gang behavior, law enforcement, and community values. Addresses questions such as the role of government in shaping values, and how values condition the efficacy of public policy. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher

"Accessible to a wide audience. It succeeds admirably in calling attention to crucial issues of values and the need for public policies to address them." — Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815700555
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1994
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 230
  • Lexile: 1490L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.07 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry J. Aaron is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he holds the Bruce and Virginia MacLaury Chair. Among his many books are Can We Say No? The Challenge of Rationing Health Care, with William B. Schwartz and Melissa Cox (Brookings, 2006), and Reforming Medicare: Options,Tradeoffs, and Opportunities, written with Jeanne Lambrew (Brookings, 2008). Thomas E. Mann is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he holds the W. Averell Harriman Chair. He is a frequent media commentator on American politics. Timothy Taylor is the managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives at Stanford University.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
The Affluence Effect 5
Culture, Incentives, and the Underclass 6
Families, Values, and Family Values 7
Multiculturalism 8
Public Spirit and Private Interest 9
Crime and the Community 9
Values and Preferences, Norms, and Habituation 10
Defining the Problem and Fixing It 11
Final Thoughts 14
2 How Changes in the Economy Are Reshaping American Values 16
Overview 17
Truth and Relevance 24
Major Changes in Values 29
Conclusion 50
3 Culture, Incentives, and the Underclass 54
What Incentives Cannot Explain 57
Familial Habituation 62
What Is Culture? 63
Changing Culture 65
Implications 71
4 The Family Condition of America: Cultural Change and Public Policy 81
Biosocial Bases of the Family 82
Cultural Change: Collectivism to Individualism 83
Advanced Societies Today: Cultural Trade-Offs 87
The Problem of America: Overindividualism 89
Restoring Civil Society in America 91
Nuclear Families: The Vital Factor 95
Rebuilding the Nest 101
The New Familism: A Hopeful Trend 105
5 Multiculturalism and Public Policy 113
The Central Challenge of Multiculturalism: Identity and Effectiveness 115
A New Word for an Old Problem 122
The New York Story 130
Can Truth Alone Guide Us? 133
Where Is Multiculturalism Headed? 138
6 Public Spirit in Political Systems 146
Solving Problems through Public Spirit 147
Private Spirit Can Lead to Political Breakdown 149
The Role of Public Spirit 150
Creating Public Spirit in Political Systems 153
Public Spirit in the United States: A Decline? 160
Conclusion 164
7 Gang Behavior, Law Enforcement, and Community Values 173
The Protagonists: Gangs, Community, Government 176
A Model of Gang Behavior 183
Community Norms and Crime Fighting Strategies 188
Long-Run Consequences of Changing Norms 191
Control over Territory 194
Conclusion 195
Appendix 196
Short-Run Equilibrium 199
Long-Run Equilibrium and Extensions of the Model 204
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