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The alleged 'crisis of the welfare state' and the failure of the traditional defenders of the welfare state to respond to the New Right's critique

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  1. Introduction.
  2. This 'blueprint' for state welfare.
  3. The expansion of state welfare during the post-war years.
    1. The idea of the Beveridge Revolution.
    2. Beveridge: Economic growth and full employment.
  4. A 'growing measure of agreement on fundamentals'.
  5. The steady economic growth that followed the end of the Second World War.
    1. Hayek: The 'Austrian' school of economics.
    2. Hayek: Beliefs about the state's attempts to control and direct society.
    3. Milton Friedman: Another eminent economic commentator.
    4. Friedman's main defense of his position.
  6. The attack on welfare spending from the New Right.
    1. A vision of the welfare state as creating a monopoly position for some interests.
    2. Seldon: The central themes of New Right thinking.
  7. Conclusion.
  8. Bibliography.

Nowhere do competing theoretical, ideological and political views rage more fiercely, than in the debates surrounding the existence and organization of the modern welfare state. For some, the welfare state stands as a testimony to human achievement and social progress, it represents a refusal to take for granted the outcomes of supposed economic laws, when they affront the notions of equality and justice, expressed in terms of those values and attitudes that make social life viable and sustainable. For others it is an inefficient and ineffective system of bureaucratic measures that thwart individual effort, impinge upon civil liberties and perpetuate a culture of dependency. In order to explore such issues in greater detail, it is my intention firstly, to examine the notion of consensus, as it was applied to the political character of post-war Britain. In so doing, I would hope to identify the various elements that served to ?legitimize' the welfare state and the ?political consensus' that was thought to exist during this period, thereby mapping out the territory against which the subsequent discussion is set. Secondly, I will examine the proposition advanced by some commentators that the welfare state is in crisis, illustrating where necessary the assumptions that underpin such a position.

[...] Within such circumstances, arguments about the crisis of the welfare state and indeed its relevance and future are reduced to the level of assertion and counter assertion. A return to the free market, so deeply enshrined within the tradition of the New Right, dictates a return to the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer. If progress is predicated on the basis of the survival of the fittest, then it is the weak, by definition who must be allowed to go to the wall. [...]


[...] In the midst of an apparent consensus surrounding the provision of state welfare, such debates were seen as essential if further refinements were to take place within an overarching dynamic of progress. Inevitably, such overtures were critical rather than positive, they focused upon failure rather than achievement, thereby adding credence to and a favorable climate for a counter attack by the New Right. It has been said that the traditional defenders of the welfare state have failed to respond to the New Right's critique. [...]


[...] Milton Friedman is another eminent economic commentator, within the tradition of the New Right, who has made an impact upon, the formulation of social policy, through his contributions to the debate about the provision of welfare and the role of the state within this process. Friedman is the most notable representative of the ?Chicago' School of economics that was founded in the 1920's by Henry C. Simons and Frank H. Knight. Not only has Friedman attracted critical attention within the economics fraternity, but he is also far more popular outside the academic world than, for example, Hayek. [...]

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