Working Paper 5: Abstract
Philanthropy, the Welfare State, and the Transformation of American Public and Private Institutions, 1945-2000
essay treats the postwar proliferation of nonprofit organizations as
part of the emergence of the American welfare state. As leader of
the "free world," the United States had to develop tools
of economic, social, and political management that would enable it
to remain prepared for economic and military mobilization and to
maintain domestic economic and political stability.
Constrained by deep-seated hostility to "big government,"
policymakers and legislators devised governmental mechanisms that
enabled them to achieve these ends without creating European-style
central state bureaucracies. While centralizing revenue gathering
(through universalization of income taxation) and policymaking in
the federal government, the actual tasks of implementing policies
was allocated to states, localities, and private sector actors.
Devolution and privatization, though conventionally associated with
the conservative revolution of the 1990s, actually describes the
fundamental dynamic of American government over the past
half-century. This fact is especially evident in the proliferation
of nonprofit organizations whose growth in numbers and influence was
encouraged by tax policies, grants, contracts, and purchases of
service (including such voucher programs as the GI Bill).
Inasmuch as privatization actually involves the transfer of government responsibilities to non-governmental entities subvented in a variety of ways by public funds, we must ultimately ask whether this trend represents a reduction in the size of government- or an enormous increase in its scale and scope.