William J. Bennett once called it "the most important book on welfare and social policy in a decade. Period." It influenced the Clinton Administration's welfare reform and deeply affected then-Governor George W. Bush's policies in Texas. But with the war on terror, the ideas in The Tragedy of American Compassion have taken a backseat.
Because it is based on historical successes and ancient wisdom, however, Tragedy is as timeless as ever. Marvin Olasky's groundbreaking book turns on its head both conventional history and rhetoric, showing that America's volunteer poverty-fighters were often more effective than our recent professionalized corps. His research also reveals that the real problem of modern welfare is not its cost but its stinginess in offering the true necessities: challenging, personal, and spiritual aid rather than entitlement and bureaucracy. So this book is now being reissued with new frontmatter to prepare a new generation of Americans to offer help that actually helps and to effectively confront once again the establishment that still impoverishes the impoverished. Foreword by Amy Sherman.
"Significant changes in government social welfare policy have unfolded since The Tragedy of American Compassion emerged in 1992-just think about the paradigm-shifting federal welfare reform of 1996. Both the book's critics and its promoters would argue that Olasky's ideas mattered and gave shape, to some degree, to some of those changes."
Amy L. Sherman, Senior Fellow, Sagamore Institute for Policy Research; author, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good
"Those who read and understand Olasky's work will be better prepared to move creatively in affirming the dignity of the poor, and in affirming work as a virtue."
John M. Perkins, President, John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development
"For domestic policy understanding, no better book recommends itself than Marvin Olasky's splendid The Tragedy of American Compassion."
Orange County RegisterOrange County Register
"One of 'eight books that changed America.'"
Colorado Gazette-TelegraphColorado Gazette-Telegraph
Wall Street JournalWall Street Journal
"There is no disagreement between liberals and conservatives about whether to help the lot of the poor, but there is grave disagreement about how to help them, especially because the wrong kind of 'help' is more likely to harm. In The Tragedy of American Compassion, Marvin Olasky shows that although government can assist the merciful efforts of persons, organizations, and communities of faith, it cannot take their place."
J. Budziszewski, Professor of Government and Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin; author of What We Can't Not Know: A Guide
"A comprehensive, well documented, and much needed study of the decline of true compassion that provides fresh analysis and provocative insight into the causes and cures of this American tragedy. Must reading for people who want to understand and help correct the plight of hurting people."
Anthony T. Evans, Founder, The Urban Alternative