A timely, exhaustive analysis of the contributory income-insurance system by the long-time (1962-73) Commissioner of Social Security. In a question-and-answer format, Ball discusses the system's structure and protective features, meanwhile addressing the problems of all three affected groups: the elderly, the disabled, and widows and orphans. He also grapples with such controversial topics as the treatment of women and minorities, here and elsewhere achieving balance by the Q & A approach. But Ball does not hesitate to advance his own strong opinions on opportunities for reform and improvement of the system. Among other things, he advocates coming ""as close to universal coverage under social security as is administratively practical""--meaning by this mandatory inclusion in the program of agricultural and domestic workers as well as government employees at all levels. In addition, Ball wants ""the last vestiges of sexual discrimination [to] be removed from the Social Security Act."" Not too surprisingly, he views the social security system in a generally positive light, maintaining that actuarial, benefit-extension, and related problems are susceptible of solutions which are both humane and economically rational, His monumental work may prove a bit much for the lay public, but it will be well-nigh indispensable for legislators, government policy makers, editorial writers, business leaders, or anyone else with a professional need to know about social security and its future.