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The Third Lie
Why Government Programs Don't Work—and a Blueprint for Change
Richard J Gelles (Author)
151 pp. / 6.00 x 9.00 / Oct, 2011
Paperback (978-1-61132-051-0)
Hardback (978-1-61132-050-3)
eBook (978-1-61132-627-7)
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  - Health & Medicine

“I am from the government and I am here to help you” is one of the three biggest lies, or so the old joke goes. Richard J. Gelles, dean of social policy at University of Pennsylvania, explains why
" This book presents a very original, unorthodox analysis of what ails us and how we might regain our economic, social, and political health. "

- Amitai Etzioni, professor, George Washington University

"Challenging both sides of the political spectrum, Gelles delivers a compelling case for the limits of government intervention along with a stimulating argument for creating a national program that works for children. A provocative study by one of the nation’s leading child welfare scholars, this book should spark a serious debate about how to advance policies that benefit children – required reading for anyone interested in the future course of US social welfare policy."

- Neil Gilbert, Chernin Professor of Social Welfare and Co-Director of the Center for Child and Youth Policy, University of California, Berkeley

" The title of Richard Gelles’s ‘The Third Lie: Why Government Programs Don’t Work—and a Blueprint for Change’ signals the kind of book this is. It is irreverent, generously sprinkled with catchy phrases and well-told (if sometimes simplified) stories of government underperformance, and serious about challenging us to change. In all, Gelles has written a tough critique of American social policy with substantial amounts of wit, anecdote, and lessons learned from decades of being a leading social scientist. His ‘Futures Account’ proposal to invest in universal prevention programs that would genuinely benefit children in all economic groups is bolder and, also, more detailed than many prior proposals. He rightfully predicts that he will take shots from both sides—it could well be that the ‘Futures Account’ will remain standing after the smoke clears. If you relish the idea of rethinking most every aspect of children and family services you will be thankful that you picked up this book. "

- Richard P. Barth, School of Social Work, University of Maryland

government programs designed to cure social ills don’t work in sector after sector…and never could work. He demonstrates how each creates its own bureaucracy to monitor participation in the program, an entrenched administrative apparatus whose needs supersede those for whom the program was designed. Against this, he contrasts universal programs such as the GI Bill, Social Security, and Medicare, the most successful, sustained government programs ever established. Gelles’s provocative, controversial proposal for a universal entitlement to replace a raft of lumbering social programs should be read by all in social services, policy studies, and government.

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