Miles to Go (Magill Book Reviews)
A sociologist by training, Daniel Patrick Moynihan has spent much of his lifetime in public office. First in the executive branch under both Republican and Democratic presidents and later in the Senate, he has devoted much of his career to finding solutions to problems that beset modern society. MILES TO GO: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF SOCIAL POLICY represents a survey of those problems along with recommended solutions.
The book is divided into problems of a general nature and those more immediate. Generally optimistic, Moynihan gives a favorable assessment of the economic policies of modern industrial nations. Business cycles have been successfully moderated through government intervention into the economy. He further applauds the fact that a corps of academically trained specialists, not just in economics but in the social service areas of government, are now involved as never before.
His examination of specific issues, however, is not so optimistic. He believes that a balanced budget amendment will seriously limit governmental power to prevent depressions. Certain welfare legislation, he argues, will likely result in the impoverishment of millions of children. The constant rise in nonmarital births since 1960, not only in the United States but in other developed nations as well, will burden the institutions of society far into the future. As with other issues, Moynihan acknowledges that too little is known about the subject for governments to...
(The entire section is 348 words.)
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Miles to Go (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the senior United States senator from New York, has had a long and distinguished career in public service. Initially a professor of sociology at Harvard University, he has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations as an advisor on labor policy and as ambassador to both India and the United Nations.
In Miles to Go: A Personal History of Social Policy, Moynihan borrows the main title from Robert Frost’s lyric “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Moynihan refrains, however, from equating himself with Frost’s bemused poetic persona; rather he applies the quotation to the evolution of the national society of which he is a part. Like Frost’s speaker, leaders may pause and ponder society’s direction, but they too have promises to keep. Presumably, Moynihan would agree with Aristotle’s dictum that organized societies exist not that men may live, but that they may live well. At the same time, he recognizes important limitations in the role of government.
Although he labels his work “personal” in the subtitle, Moynihan’s perspective is enhanced by expertise and informed by firsthand experience. For an understanding of issues, he draws heavily upon social science. Clearly, Moynihan retains his sociologist’s perspective concerning the way societies operate. Further, he borrows heavily from economic theory as it has developed from the late nineteenth century. After economics emerged...
(The entire section is 2062 words.)