Tragedy Marvin Olasky, Professor at UT Austin, author of many articles and books, coined the term Compassionate Conservativism in his book of the same name.  In light of the recent Katrina disaster and the amazing job that faith-based organizations did in relief work, Olasky’s points in his book The Tragedy of American Compassion seem very poignant. 

He relates that faith-based welfare and long-term relief work are better than government welfare because

  1. They don’t just hand out money; they help people change their lives, focusing on job training and education.
  2. They require that the poor do some useful work, giving them a chance to rebuild their dignity by making a worthwhile contribution to society.
  3. They help outcasts to build a social network – to reconnect with family and church for ongoing support and accountability
  4. They address the moral and spiritual needs that lie at the heart of dysfunctional behavior

I took this overview from Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth, p. 61, and thought it worth repeating.

Pearcey also remarks

Clearly, this goes beyond what any government can do.  In fact, government aid can actually make things worse.  By handing out welfare checks impersonally to all who qualify, without addressing the underlying behavioral problems, the government in essence "rewards" antisocial and dysfunctional patterns.

I am sure this was the thinking behind The Personal Responsibility Act, part of the historic Contract With America.