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September 14 , 2008

An American Philosophy of Social Security: Evolution and Issues


Is our system of social security, which involves an annual dispersement of thirty billion dollars, as effective and as equitable as it might be? J. Douglas Brown's analysis of the policies of this program and the philosophy on which it was built offers insights into its relation to our social and political systems.

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He was one of a small number of people who drafted the original Social Security program enacted in 1935.

He views a national welfare system as a necessary adjunct to our national system of social insurance (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) and fears that without it the role of social insurance to prevent dependency may be distorted. Social insurance, according to Dr. Brown, should extend normal self-sufficiency when contingencies interrupt income normally received, whereas public assistance should remain distinct from social insurance and protect those unable to support themselves.

Dr. Blown also addresses himself to the questions of graduated income as a source of social insurance revenues, determination of benefits as related to an individual's imputed needs based on his average earnings, and permanent vesting of pension credits accrued under private programs.

The most urgent need is tor a better distribution of health services to alleviate a situation in which doctors are seemingly more concerned with preserving an obsolete but lucrative system of compensation than with cooperating to reorganize an essential service.

Originally published in 1972.

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