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The striking significance of Wyman v. James does not lie in the Supreme Court's resolution of the immediate controversy between the parties. Whether or not the Court had required welfare caseworkers to obtain search warrants before payments could be terminated for AFDG recipients who refused to permit home visits, it seemed likely that welfare practices would be hardly affected. Wyman's special importance comes rather from what it symbolizes and foretells. Mrs. James' resistance to her welfare caseworker's home visit challenged three increasingly important government claims to power. First, Mrs. James claimed privacy of her home from government intrusion in a time of increasing government capacity and apparent willingness to derogate from individual privacy. Second, Mrs. James challenged the government's insistence that derogation of her privacy was the price of receiving public funds, in a time of widespread public dependence on government largesse, increasingly accompanied by an entangling web of consequential obligations. Third, Mrs. James claimed authority to define her own needs among the various types of welfare assistance available. But the government insisted that it knew better, as it increasingly claims when forcing assistance on other unwilling recipients-whether they be the "mentally ill," children in "moral danger" as evidenced by their conduct, children who are "neglected or abused" as evidenced by their parents' conduct, narcotics users, or public alcoholics.
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