The Poverty Issue at the End of History
About This Event
Lawrence M. Mead of New York University will deliver the January Bradley Lecture.

The politics of poverty have shaped—and been shaped by—the end of history, meaning Francis Fukuyama’s idea that divisions of principle have faded from Western politics. While partisan rivalry remains, it no longer rests on opposed world views to the extent it used to. The end of deep ideological differences over capitalism and race in the 1960s helped to create poverty as an issue in need of attention. Poverty as such could only be addressed once the essential claims of unionists and civil rights marchers had been granted. At the same time, poverty disproved the idea that the market economy was a threat to society requiring government protections. The heart of that fear was that there would not be enough jobs available for all willing workers. But research and experience showed that poverty was mostly due to failure to take available jobs, not a lack of jobs or low wages. In the future, poverty will be debated in terms of morality, not ideology. The question will then be how to achieve good behavior, not attain a good society. This type of moralistic politics is less threatening than ideological conflict, yet more disturbing. No longer do we confront deep differences only in political values, but also in the ability of people to live constructive lives.

Lawrence M. Mead is a professor of politics at New York University, where he teaches public policy and American government. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard and Princeton Universities and the University of Wisconsin. He has also been a visiting fellow at Princeton and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Professor Mead is an authority on the problems of poverty and welfare in the United States. Among academics, he was the principal exponent of work requirements in welfare, the approach that now dominates national policy. He is also a leading scholar of the politics and implementation of welfare reform, subjects on which he has written seven books and over a hundred other publications. These works have helped shape welfare reform in the United States and abroad. Government Matters, his study of welfare reform in Wisconsin, was a co-winner of the 2005 Louis Brownlow Book Award, given by the National Academy of Public Administration. Professor Mead has consulted with federal, state, and local governments in this country and with several foreign countries. He testifies regularly to Congress on poverty, welfare, and social policy, and he often comments on these subjects in the media.

5:15 p.m.
Christopher DeMuth, AEI
Lawrence M. Mead, New York University
Adjournment and Wine and Cheese Reception
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  • Christopher DeMuth was president of AEI from December 1986 through December 2008. Previously, he was administrator for information and regulatory affairs in the Office of Management and Budget and executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief in the Reagan administration; taught economics, law, and regulatory policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; practiced regulatory, antitrust, and general corporate law; and worked on urban and environmental policy in the Nixon White House.


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Lawrence M.
  • Lawrence Mead teaches American politics and public policy at New York University. Known as one of the theoretical architects of the welfare reform of the 1990s, he has written several influential books in which he demonstrates that mandatory work requirements are essential to sound welfare policy. While at AEI, he researched how to institute a work requirement for nonworking poor men comparable to the work tests that were instituted for poor single mothers in previous welfare reforms.
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