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I intend to investigate the influence of social, fraternal, and religious organizations in providing the sorts of welfare functions for which we now ordinarily rely on the government. Essentially, the study is structured like this: before the government adopted an active role in directly providing or funding many welfare services (including retirement benefits, orphans' support, and many health-care services), "common citizens" tended to band together to form fraternal organizations and mutual-aid societies (ranging from the Elks to the Foresters, and even including mutual insurance companies).
These groups pooled their financial resources in order to guarantee certain benefits, and often provided recreational activities as well. I wish to investigate whether the casual observation (that these groups are in serious decline) is correct, and further what factors influenced their decline. In addition to the economic issues involved (particularly, the provision of certain welfare goods in the private and public sectors), the subject raises intriguing social questions.
posted 3.31.2000; updated 8.1.2004