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"All other things being equal" is to the economist what blinders are to a horse--a means of getting somewhere without having to pay attention to the scenery en route. A good many modern economists still wear these blinders. But since Veblen and Keynes economic theory has realized that the dismal science has no more social justification than a cross-word puzzle unless it applies its tools of analysis to actual problems and turns out answers which are not only theoretically sound but useful in the real world.
Professor Harris's most recent book is just such an application of economic theory. It is in essence a study of the "other things" which both critics and supporters of the Social Security program have usually left equal in their discussions. Professor Harris relates the Social Security program to most of the major issues of the day--decline in interest rates, stagnation, deficit financing, and relief and wage policies. His most original contribution is his study of the incidence and effects of pay-roll taxes where he shows that the burden of a pay-roll tax may fall on other factors in production or the consumers rather than the wage-earner. He also performs a valuable service in stressing that consideration must be given to the needs of Social Security itself as an institution for old age benefits. Too much attention has been centered on any of a thousand other objectives.
A discursive but thorough study of all possible aspects of its subject, "The Economics of Social Security" is required reading for any economics, sociology, or government concentrators interested in relief and its allied problems. Like most required reading, it is seldom easy and often dull.
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