The Mission of the Manhattan Institute is
to develop and disseminate new ideas that
foster greater economic choice and
individual responsibility.

The New York Times.

Book Review
December 24, 2000

by Allen D. Boyer

The Burden Of Bad Ideas
How Modern Intellectuals Misshape Our Society. By Heather Mac Donald. Ivan R. Dee, $26.

What earlier muckrakers did for the Gilded Age -- expose waste, misery, government ineptitude and a smug set of principles that justified these failures -- Heather Mac Donald attempts for the liberal welfare state. The free-ranging essays in "The Burden of Bad Ideas" attack educators who condone graffiti-tagging and welfare administrators who adopt "a nonjudgmental attitude to crime." Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, roundly condemns the great philanthropic foundations, like the Ford Foundation and Carnegie Corporation. "Foundation-supported poverty advocates fought to make welfare a right -- and generations have grown up fatherless and dependent," she asserts. "Poor communities across the country often find their traditional values undermined by foundation-sent 'community activists' bearing the latest fashion in 'diversity' and 'enlightened' sexuality." Under such pressures, she argues, the focus of social concerns has subtly changed; charity appeals in 1912 asked donors to encourage the pluck of the deserving poor, while appeals in the 1990's favor addicts and welfare mothers, glossing over self-destructive behavior "as if individual will or responsibility never entered the picture." Among discussions of urban malaise, where so much hot air has been recycled, this book has the freshness of a stiff, changing breeze.

©2000 The New York Times

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