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LAWRENCE M. MEAD is Professor of Politics and Public Policy at New York University. His many previous books defined the theory behind the radical welfare reform of the 1990s, which for the first time required many welfare recipients to work as condition of aid. His works also include close studies of how to implement work requirements. Since the 1980s, he has been an influential advisor to social policy makers in Washington, at the state and local level, and in several foreign countries.
Burdens of Freedom presents a new and radical interpretation of America and its challenges. The United States is an individualist society where most people seek to realize personal goals and values out in the world. This unusual, inner-driven culture was the chief reason why first Europe, then Britain, and finally America came to lead the world. But today, our deepest problems derive from groups and nations that reflect the more passive, deferential temperament of the non-West. The long-term poor and many immigrants have difficulties assimilating in America mainly because they are less inner-driven than the norm. Abroad, the United States faces challenges from Asia, which is collective-minded, and also from many poorly-governed countries in the developing world. The chief threat to American leadership is no longer foreign rivals like China but the decay of individualism within our own society.