Ideological Underpinnings of the “Great Society”

03 Economy, 07 Other Atrocities, 11 Society, Corruption, Cultural Intelligence, Government
Robert Higgs

Ideological Underpinnings of the “Great Society”

By Robert Higgs

Campaign for Liberty, 05/10/11

[The Freeman (March 2011). An MP3 audio file of this article, narrated by Steven Ng, is available for download.]

The surge of federal economic interventions that occurred during Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency — the much-ballyhooed Great Society, whose centerpiece was the War on Poverty — differed from the four preceding surges, each of which had been sparked by war or economic depression. No national emergency prevailed when Johnson took office following John F. Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963. The nation was not engaged in a major shooting war, and the economy was on the mend after the mild recession of 1960-61. For the most part, the Great Society represented simply the culmination of economic, political, and intellectual developments stretching back as far as the 19th century.

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Phi Beta Iota: The value of this article is enhanced by its observation that the perception of continuous growth as providing a surplus of funds for the government to carry out social and economic experiments, combined with the growth of ….”a so-called New Class — composed of scientists, lawyers and judges, city planners, social workers, professors, criminologists, public-health doctors, reporters, editors, and commentators in the news media, among others — viewed new government programs as outlets for their “idealism” and as opportunities to do well while doing good. Thus a multitude of left-leaning intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals gave significant leadership, support, and voice to the government surge of the Johnson years.”  Today the government borrows one trillion dollars a year “in our name,” this being one third of the annual government budget that has actually bankrupted the Republic many times over.

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