Skepticism, Meliorism and The Public Interest

"Skepticism, Meliorism and The Public Interest," The Public Interest, Fall, 1985.


Indeed, The Public Interest has always emphasized the modestly positive along with the skeptical. Ours has always really been a meliorist frame of mind. The world is not coming to an end, and American society is not going to collapse, merely because so many liberal social programs have not worked as intended. What is needed are better social programs—though the best are not always identified as being a social program of any kind. Thus, all debates as to whether or not the Social Security system will be bankrupt thirty years from now overlook the crucial new program for the elderly that was put in place in 1981. I refer to Individual Retirement Accounts which, thirty years from now, will make Social Security income of only marginal significance to most of the retired elderly. The IRA is usually regarded as an instance of economic policy, not social policy, perhaps because it involves people doing the right thing for themselves rather than doing good on behalf of others. One suspects, given the increasing suspicion of professional humanitarians as a class, that more and more “social policy” will henceforth take this form.

Public Interest Archive (National Affairs) [pdf]