Beyond its rejection of universalism, the GI bill departed from the New Deal in its stress on individual benefits and individual mobility. The New Deal provided many of its benefits through government institutions that directly hired people, housed them, educated and entertained them. The GI Bill took a different tack, giving funds to individuals to shop for education, housing, employment, and business opportunities in the private market. (Health care came directly from the government through Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics.) In promoting its bill, the American Legion used the language of individual freedom, not social provision. Some of the strongest congressional support for the measure came from conservative critics of the New Deal.I wonder if, in his reference to conservative critics he was referring to our own late Congresswoman, Edith Norse Rogers, for she is known for her support of the GI bill.
So, the author draws what I take to be an Elizabeth Warren like distinction between the view of the individual and the view of the collective good. I think Professor Freeman comes down on the side of Professor Warren. Is this a theme, a thread, within the Democratic Party? Have they gone over from the view of the value of hard work by the individual to a more "European" like view? The author does put it starkly, "the language of individual freedom, not social provision." I would like to not be taken as wishing to ignore the poor, the homeless and those who just can't become part of the system of employment. I do believe, however, that all workers benefit when individuals are best able to maximize their contributions to the nation as a whole. (And why the swipe at mobility? In a book I will be reviewing in this blog, The New Geography of Jobs, that author notes the importance of mobility in avoiding pockets of poverty and even asks if the Federal Government should be providing payments to the unemployed to support movement.)
Can we not have social provision without destroying individual freedom? Once individual freedom is gone it might be very hard to get it back.
Regards — Cliff