I’m in the middle of David Kelley’s short book on welfare rights, A Life of One’s Own. For some silly reason, I haven’t ever read it before. It is sheer delight. For example:

In the opening pages, DK contrasts our personal to our public sense of each person’s responsibility for his own life. In our private lives, we see supporting ourselves as our own responsibility. We have to find a job, show up on time, pay our bills, feed our children, and so forth. In contrast, as a matter of public policy, we expect the government to provide these good and services for everyone. The world does not owe us a living, but the world does owe everyone a living. DK then goes on to show that similar contradictions crop up in our personal versus public views about helping those in need.

(Sadly, that summary does not come close to doing the introduction justice. The point is that the introduction lays bare a very interesting and common contradiction between what we expect of ourselves and what we expect of others.)

In general, the book exhibits the same patience and fairness found in most of DK’s work. He clearly separates his discussion of the content of the opposing ideas from his evaluation. He presents those opposing views in their most plausible form. His analysis is slow and painstaking, but crystal-clear in the end. It was this patient and fair method that first caught my attention in reading Truth and Toleration (now The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand). As I said: sheer delight!

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