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A voluntary support system vs the Welfare State

January 30th, 2011 Posted in UK Politics, Welfare State by

Over at Lib Dem Voice, Mark Pack poses the question: Was Beveridge right to oppose the Welfare State?

This may seem an odd debating point as everyone credits William Beveridge with laying the foundation of the welfare system we currently have.

In fact, Beveridge laid out a liberal blueprint to tackle want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

The Labour Government under Clement Attlee took the report and responded by creating a centralised structure that became known as the Welfare State. The NHS, education system and social security system that many now see as representing all that is good about Britain was inspired by liberalism but built by Fabian social democracy.

It is impossible to know what would have happened if a Liberal Government had come to power in 1945 but it is likely that a support system would have been established that emphasised voluntary engagement and the decentralisation of decision-making.

5 Responses to “A voluntary support system vs the Welfare State”

  1. Steve Travis Says:

    One of the creations of the Welfare State that you mention (the 1944 Education Act) and the system of social mobility that it engendered has, of course, been utterly destroyed by later Labour Governments (with the coup de grace coming from the Tories).


  2. Psi Says:

    @ Steve Travis

    I find it sad that anyone has positive things to say about the post war grammar school/secondary modern system. It was a centrally imposed system that validated the idea that central government should dictate how education should be delivered which laid the ground work for ever more government interference.
    Had it been left to local people to design the system we would have had much more diversity in education and we would have never seen a systemwhere if you failed at 11 you were a failure for life. I know it is popular with the “winners” under the system created to point to those who benefited and ignore those who lost. One sure way to make the winner happy is to condemn the losers too a poor system and reduce their ability to compete with you through the rest of life.

    If their were to have been a voucher system created at that time or even simply local control the diversity of approaches would have created competition (either between institutions or areas) which would have driven faster improvement and kept the dead hand of central bureaucracy out of the system.

    If you believe in a two speed statist system you are not too far from those who want a one speed statist system.

    What exactly is wrong with freedom of choice?


  3. Steve Travis Says:

    Psi – where is there freedom of choice? The Grammar system wasn’t perfect but by removing it in toto we removed a lifeline for many children from poor backgrounds to move up the social order. Now we have a system that consigns the vast majority to the scrapheap.


  4. Steve Travis Says:

    Incidentally, the “old” system did have a de-facto voucher system in the form of the direct-grant grammars. Poor but able children had their fees partly or wholly paid for, and were able to exercise their choice to go to this sorrt of school that was already catered for by private providers. I would welcome its return.


  5. Psi Says:

    @ Steve

    I think you confuse me with someone who approves of the replacement system. That is also a failed system. The problem is that it is a statist system where the government is entitled to interfere directly in schools as it has effectively given itself the right to decide what is best for citizens children as if they are state property. My concern is that we still don’t have freedom of choice not that the grammars took it away and the comprehensives gave it back.

    The Grammar school system is the system you get if you put together a group of people who are all too similar to each other and have far too limited experience of the world. The idea at age 11 you can decide people in to “clever” and “not clever” which will be applicable throughout the rest of their lives is only a system central planners would devise. As if the world will only have “managers” and “workers.” The sort of thinking for a world where it is acceptable for the government to set prices and wages, pick which companies should survive, oh wait…

    I would have preferred that they had devised a system that had encouraged diversity, innovation catering to the wide variety of people. The point is that we are not unable to establish a system like that now but people (predominately those who “won” under the old system) hark back to a failed system of the past.

    If we had kept foreign cars makers from the UK market (like Cuba), banned the mini and produced the Metro. I would not spend time demanding we stop producing Metros and revert to the 1950’s Mini I would argue to allow imports and suggest that we should produce modern cars. The greater choice quality would provide for the needs of customers much more effectively than either of the models being replaced. People seem to accept a wide diversity in goods they buy but a scary number are not willing to consider diversity in things like Education.

    If we consider what we want from an education system and consider the differences in children (speed of development/styles of learning/different strengths in different subjects) we would not produce a system that tried to categorise them in to only two types, or all taught according to the latest fashion in the media/Whitehall. We would want a great deal of diversity and would want education tailored to children’s needs/abilities not the children being squeezed to fit the system.


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