Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Over at Tom's Diary Blog he has a bit of news to share. His review of Suzanne Mettler's book on the GI Bill is now up on the website of the Claremont Review of Books, where it recently appeared in the print edition. Mettler responded to Tom's review, which found some fairly significant flaws in Mettler's work, and Tom responded to her response. The exchange is available here (you'll need to scroll down). I think Tom wins the argument, but I disagree with him on his generalizations about the failure of the welfare state -- I guess we would have to define what we mean by "welfare," of course. In any case, read his diary post and follow all of the links.


Tom said...


No surprise that you would not agree with parts of that review and parts of my response to Mettler. But I don't think I make an absolute generalization (oxymoron?) about the failure of the welfare state. I do make generalizations about the overall disappointing nature of welfare programs outside of the GI Bill--not that they did not have some or even a lot of benefits, just that they usually have not lived up to the hope, especially in comparison to the GI Bill.

This actually brings up another inconsistency in Mettler's book. She makes the case that the 1960s were a golden age for welfare-style programs because of GI Bill-recipient influence, but the overall argument of the book implies that the execution of these programs were all flawed in comparison to the GI Bill. Maybe she means it was a golden age for good intentions, but it is not exactly clear.

This all just reinforces the point that the book would have been that much better as a straightforward history of the GI Bill.


dcat said...

Tom -
I think this is why I mentioned defining "welfare" in the context of your comments do mettler, which, as I said, got the better end of the debate. In other words, how much would you try to define away while I tried to wedge it in. Because to my mind there has been no more successful welfare program than the vast panoply of financial aid for people to attend higher education. And whatever flaws there may be in the social security system, it dramatically re-shaped our society, including by dramatically undercutting poverty rates among the elderly. Indeed, looking at the 1960s and the dramatic drop in poverty over the course of that decade, I can see what Mettler is saying -- if indeed that is what she is saying, which you seem unclear on, and which obviously is her burden to convey clearly.

I think my favorite part of your exchanmge with her was when she tried to chide you about a couple of books that she claimed bolstered her case and then you respond by saying not only were those books not germane to WWII, but that there were these other books that in fact are germane and they agree with you.

Yet another reason simply never to get into a pissing contest with a reviewer. I hope I remember this sage advice if one of my books ever gets dragged through the wringer.