All posts filed under: Social Policy

Britain Needs a New Approach to Homelessness

Author note: Some of the names in this essay have been changed in accordance with the wishes of those interviewed. “Out here, everyone’s taking something,” a man named Karl explains as he scratches his chest and tries to gather up the copies of the Big Issue he’s just dropped. Karl is standing in the middle of a busy high street, across from Norwich’s historic market. He is one of the estimated 40 men and women in the city who sleep rough every night. Originally from east London, the 45-year-old left the capital after a relationship broke down and headed northward and settled here. After a number of serious issues with alcohol and drugs, he lost his flat and has spent the last three years bedding down on concrete in and around Norwich. Homelessness is an extremely contentious and emotive issue. As a general rule, those on the Right view it as an employment problem, while those on the Left tend to see it as the result of austerity and cuts to social spending introduced by …

The Question of Affirmative Action: An Interview with Glenn Loury

On November 2nd, 2020, Brown professor of Economics and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute Glenn Loury joined Harvard political theorist Michael Sandel’s course “Justice” to discuss the ethics of affirmative action in American higher education. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation. MICHAEL SANDEL: I wonder if I could begin with a provocative quotation from a lecture you’ve given. You’ve said that affirmative action is not about equality, it’s about “covering ass.” What did you mean by that and what do you think generally about the ethics of affirmative action? GLENN LOURY: I was drawing the listener’s attention to the difference between the institutional interest in having a diverse profile of participants and the interests, as I understand them, of the population which may be the beneficiary of this largesse. My point was: if you want genuine equality, this is distinct from titular equality. If you want substantive equality, this is distinct from optics equality. If you want equality of respect, of honor, of standing, of dignity, of achievement, of mastery, …

The Problem with Kinship Care

Thanks, but no thanks. That was the message that aspiring foster parents got this fall when they sent inquiries offering their services to the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. According to an automatic email reply from Dawn Marlow, administrator for the Office of Resource Families, the state is not accepting applications from any foster parents except those who are willing to take care of children with “complex developmental or medical needs.” How is it that states from Georgia to Michigan are struggling to find enough qualified foster homes to take in children—especially during a pandemic when many homes have closed and recruitment is hard—but New Jersey is doing just fine? The letter explains that: “In New Jersey, the number of youth in foster care continues to be reduced each year because we are focusing first on kinship placements.” It’s true that the state has reduced the number of kids in foster care by two-thirds since 2003, from 13,000 to 4,000. But there are only about 1,700 kids who are being officially removed from their …

L.A.’s Failed Homeless Policies Turned My Home Into a Prison

I never wanted a gun. In fact, I wanted to never own one—until around noon on Thursday, August 20th. Since the late 1990s, I’ve lived in Venice, California, renting a one-bedroom Craftsman house a mile from the ocean that someone built out of a Sears-catalog kit 100 years ago. I’m a science-based syndicated columnist and author, currently working all hours to complete a book that keeps trying to kill me. Luckily, I’m writing it in this cute little old lady of a house on my sweet Venice block. Whenever it seems I’m pointlessly pushing words around the page, I’ll step out the front door and take in the sunny stretch of palm trees, cacti, and bougainvillea. I’ll spot a hummingbird, wave to my neighbor with his parrot on his shoulder, or maybe watch Joey the Aggressive Squirrel, my wee dog’s taunting nemesis. These brief distractions uncouple me from looming suspicions that I’m an incompetent dullard no one will want to read, and I often go back in, emotionally restored, and pound out a coherent and …

Affirmative Action in a Multiethnic Nation

This last week, the California Legislature voted to hold a referendum to repeal Proposition 209 in November. Passed in 1996, Prop 209 banned affirmative action in public contracting, employment, and education. This maneuver comes on the heels of the Black Lives Matter protests and riots roiling the nation, and is of a piece with the ongoing cultural revolution which is attempting to instantiate Critical Race Theory as the hegemonic ideology in elite institutions. As we are constantly reminded, America is becoming an ever-more diverse nation. Whites will be a minority by mid-century. Some perceive this to be an unalloyed good. But it appears that few proponents of affirmative action are prepared to consider the dangers of quotas in a multiethnic society. A survey of other nations’ experiences with this policy reveals sobering consequences. At best: social strife, inefficiency, endemic public corruption, and nepotism. At worst: tribalized violence and warfare. In Malaysia, after the British colonial administration departed, the fledgling nation faced simmering ethnic tensions among native Malays (bumiputeras/“sons of the soil”) and overseas Chinese and …

Is Foster Care Racist?

“We need to abolish the foster care system,” Charity Chandler-Cole, a member of the Los Angeles County Commission for Children and Families told her colleagues earlier this month. Chandler-Cole, a former foster youth herself, explained: “I don’t care how big your Office of Equity is, I don’t care how many black people and brown people you hire.” Meanwhile, in a recent op-ed entitled “Now Is the Time for Abolition,” Alan Dettlaff, dean of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and Kristen Weber, director of equity, inclusion, and justice for the Center for the Study of Social Policy, announced that their “respective organizations have formed upEND, a collaborative movement… [that] works to create a society in which the forcible separation of children from their parents is no longer an acceptable intervention for families in need.” The complaints of structural racism and a desire to abolish foster care will sound familiar to anyone who has been listening to the recent debate about policing. But the claim that the foster care system suffers from systemic bias and …

Return to ‘The Unheavenly City’

The late senator, statesman, sociologist, and New Yorker Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously observed that, “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Moynihan balanced one truth with another, in part to show that neither side enjoyed a monopoly on wisdom. Had he offered these competing visions of politics and culture without describing one as “conservative” and the other as “liberal,” however, it would have admitted the possibility that one was more accurate than the other. And whether or not that is in fact the case matters—not merely for philosophical reasons but for political and social reasons, too. In 1970, American political scientist Edward Banfield had explored this apparently innocuous question in a monograph entitled The Unheavenly City: The Nature and the Future of Our Urban Crisis. The book proved to be so divisive that a slightly revised version appeared just four years later entitled The Unheavenly City Revisited (the …