Was The Great Society A Success

Was the Great Society a success?

Was the Great Society a success?

Expert Answers
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In many respects it was. Lyndon Johnson's program picked up where John Kennedy's New Frontier had ended. Among the many programs which he instituted were the War on Poverty to end suffering of Americans. Among its more successful programs was the Job Corps to help unemployed inner city young people find work, Project Head Start for disadvantaged pre-schoolers, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), a domestic version of the Peace Corps, and the Community Action Program, which helped direct aid to poor neighborhoods. Although technically not part of the Great Society Program, Lyndon Johnson was also instrumental in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed discrimination in places of public accommodation, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which suspended literacy tests in areas where less than half the eligible voters had actually voted.  Other programs were Medicare and Medicaid, and creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

All this of course had a cost. Johnson's policy, like many other Democratic presidents, was a Keynesian policy of massive government spending. His expenditures were so massive, however that the country experienced high unemployment and high inflation at the same time. This was a situation which economists had never seen before, so they were forced to develop a new name for it: stagflation. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would argue that the Great Society was not a success.  It did not achieve its goals in any lasting way.

The two main goals of the Great Society were to end A) poverty and B) racial injustice.  One can argue about whether racial injustice has been eradicated, so it might have achieved that goal.  However, there is no way to argue that poverty has been eliminated in the United States.

The real problem with Johnson's initiative was that government simply cannot do away with poverty or, to a lesser extent, with racial injustice.  The government can ban overt discrimination, for example, but it cannot force blacks and whites to go to school together and, thereby, ensure that blacks get a good education.  There are still racial disparities in educational achievement today.

If it is hard to end racial injustice, it is much harder to end poverty.  No government has yet found a way to achieve economic growth without leaving some people behind.  Poverty continues to exist today in the US.

If the Great Society was meant to end racial injustice and poverty, it was a failure because both problems continue to exist today.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With all due respect to # 2 above, certainly the Great Society did not END racial discrimination of poverty; but to declare it a failure is to see it as a "win or lose" issue with no in between. When one considers the gargantuan progress this country has made towards achieving racial equality and ending poverty, it seems a bit cynical to say that it was anything but a monumental accomplishment. As a 62 year old Southerner who attended a "separate but equal" school, I have seen tremendous strides in equality and acceptance of each other, which never would happened were it not for President Johnson's efforts. Also as a soon to be candidate for Medicare, it is a bit simplistic I think to say it was not a success.

Bottom line: is the country better or worse than before the Great Society programs? The question is almost rhetorical.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Great Society was successful in that it achieved some key reforms and started some important programs which have had a lasting effect on our society, not the least of which are Medicare and Medicaid.  Our quality of life as Americans has improved because of them.

That being said, the War on Poverty achieved little in terms of lasting results, and some say created direct aid programs that encouraged a cycle of dependence.  Either way, poverty today is nearly as high or higher than it was in the 1960s.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to agree with the above post. While the programs started by Johnson may not have eliminated poverty and created racial equality during the time that Johnson was in office his programs did have major impacts in those two areas. Some of the programs started at that time are still in existence today in some form or another. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Whether or not the Great Society was a success depends on how you define success. The bottom line is that it had no lasting effects. It did spur the country on to some form of optimism, and there's always Medicare and Medicaid.
phatof99str | Student


coolnoda | Student

... i think it was unscuccessful