At a time when entitlement spending poses a fiscal challenge unlike any in our nation’s history, the Hoover Institution’s John Cogan addresses the question of how and why these federal programs have grown so large and have become so far removed from the ideals on which they were founded in The High Cost of Good Intentions: A History of U.S. Federal Entitlement Programs.

"John Cogan lays bare the historic roots of the most important economic problem confronting American policy makers today: our runaway entitlements juggernaut,” said Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States (1987–2006) and former chairman of the National Commission on Social Security Reform (1983).

Although histories of individual entitlement programs have been written, this is the first comprehensive history of federal entitlement programs. 

"Finally someone has written a comprehensive history of America's efforts to help worthy groups of Americans: the elderly, the veteran, the less fortunate, and the very young. . . .  You can agree or disagree with the merit of all these programs, but the cost is clear, and John Cogan shows why that cost has been either ignored or passed to future generations,” said Bill Bradley, former US senator.

Given the current issues facing policy makers, The High Cost of Good Intentions is particularly relevant and timely for today’s debate. 

 “[John] Cogan brings his extraordinary knowledge and background in economics, fiscal policy, health care, and Social Security to bear in this book to give the reader a full understanding of the roots and the extent of this growing problem that must be tackled," said Paul D. Ryan, Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

Cogan presents a history of major federal entitlement programs from the beginning of the Republic to modern times, showing how they evolved and explaining the forces that caused their evolution. Combining economics, history, and political science with the law, the book provides a unifying explanation for the remarkably common evolutionary path nearly all entitlements have followed during two hundred years of US history. 

About the Author

John F. Cogan is the Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a faculty member in the Public Policy Program at Stanford University. His research focuses on the US budget and fiscal policy, federal entitlement programs, and health care. Cogan served as an assistant secretary at the Department of Labor and as associate director and then deputy director in the Office of Management and Budget.

For more information on The High Cost of Good Intentions, visit Stanford University Press.  

About the Hoover Institution: The Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is a public policy research center devoted to the advanced study of economics, politics, history, and political economy—both domestic and foreign—as well as international affairs. With its eminent scholars and world-renowned Library & Archives, the Hoover Institution seeks to improve the human condition by advancing ideas that promote economic opportunity and prosperity and secure and safeguard peace for America and all mankind. For more information on the Hoover Institution, visit or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Scribd (keyword: Hoover Institution).

CONTACT INFORMATION:  Marlon Bateman | Office of Public Affairs | Hoover Institution | | 650-723-0603

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