Today Europeans see their strong welfare states as necessary to counter the worst features of unrestrained capitalism. They pay high taxes to support generous social benefits. Americans, to the contrary, have been conditioned to shudder at the very idea of a welfare state, upholding instead a laissez-faire faith in market solutions to social problems. They pay low taxes and have few tax-subsidized benefits.
In this far-ranging study, James W. Russell shows how and why these different models of social and welfare policy developed. He examines how Europe and the United States have handled differently, and with different consequences, such common social problems as poverty, inequality, unemployment, family support, health care provision, ethnic and racial conflict, and crime. Ultimately, Russell demonstrates that the different European and American social policy orientations have produced different social ways of life, ways of life that are now in contention for the future of western societies.