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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 11 No. 1 (Winter 1997)

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Retrospectives: Classical Family Values: Ending the Poor Laws as They Knew Them

Article Citation

Persky, Joseph. 1997. "Retrospectives: Classical Family Values: Ending the Poor Laws as They Knew Them." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 11(1): 179-189.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.11.1.179

Abstract

Poor law reform in the early 1830s provides a key example of the deep conflicts between classical liberal principles of self-reliance and the realities of dependency. Eminent economists, such as Nassau Senior and Thomas Malthus, argued that the dependency of women and children calls forth and motivates its own support from the altruism of husbands and fathers. Like modern welfare reformers, the classical economists asserted the natural necessity and sufficiency of such dependency and ignored its powerful implications for the intergenerational perpetuation of a highly illiberal inequality of opportunity.

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Authors

Persky, Joseph (U IL, Chicago)

JEL Classifications

I38: Welfare and Poverty: Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
B12: History of Thought: Classical (includes Adam Smith

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