The System Worked: Our Schizophrenic Stance on Welfare

Robert Tsai, American University


This is a review of Steven M. Teles's book, Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Politics (University Press of Kansas, 1996), which argues that welfare policy reflects a dynamic of elite dissensus, in which public policy fails to reflect popular opinion. I make two central points in the review: first, there are reasons to believe that welfare policy does, in fact, reflect a deeply conflicted American electorate; and second, such a conflict may reveal a healthy deliberative order struggling to reconcile changing priorities with enduring values.