Will Social Security keep its promises to the Baby Boomer generation?
Would Americans be better off with national health insurance?
Is there an alternative to government welfare that does a better job in helping the poor?
These are some of the questions West Virginia Universitys Dr. Daniel Shapiro is taking up in a new book that carries a query of its own in the title:Is the Welfare State Justified?
Shapiro is a professor in the Department of Philosophy.
Published this month by Cambridge University Press,Is the Welfare State Justified?looks at current institutions, both national and international, that make up thewelfare stategovernment -financed and -administered retirement pensions, health insurance, and aid for the needy.
He asks if they are living up to their own promises, or if there are feasible alternatives that would be fairer, provide a better safety net, sustain a more solid sense of community, and be more open and transparent.
Shapiro emphasizes that his book combines philosophy and social science and does so in an unusual way. He keeps his own political philosophy out of the book on purpose by deliberately avoiding philosophical questions and quarrels about which social and political valuesLiberty? Compassion? Community?are the most important.
He does this by playing the role of philosophical peacemaker; by using empirical evidence from the social sciences, he makes the case that people from a variety of perspectives should agree, based on their own values, that alternatives to welfare state institutions are better or at least as good as the ones in place.
One of the biggest surprises he encountered while researching the book was the enormous popularity of Chiles Social Security privatization.
It is really cool,he saysthat you can ask an average factory worker how her pension savings account is doing, and she will pull out a ledger and show you the current value of her investment.
Shapiro has spoken nationally and internationally on philosophy and public policy, and his research led him to study how welfare states and alternative institutions work or would work in a wide variety of affluent democracies. He wasnt looking to overthrow the government, he says with a rueful chuckle, but he did want to offer proposals that he believes will make the system work better here and abroad.
My �€~welfare statequestions,Shapiro said,were the same ones that both academics and ordinary people ask: Is the system fairreally? Does it truly help the vulnerable? Is it open and honest? Does it sustain a sense of community?
He plans to incorporate the book into his Social and Political Philosophy course hes teaching this fall. His department, he said, made the book possible.
I am incredibly fortunate to be working in a department with wonderful colleagues, students and a truly amazing department chair, Dr. Sharon Ryan,he said.I am very grateful for her support.
Ryan three years ago came up with THE QUESTION , a deep-thinking exercise designed to introduce philosophy concepts to the general public that has garnered national attention in outlets from the Washington Post to Sports Illustrated.
The Department of Philosophy is part of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.
For ordering information onIs the Welfare State Justified?visithttp://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521677936.