Can Britain’s Welfare State Be Saved?

Can Britain’s Welfare State Be Saved?

Since 1945 the British welfare state has had special meaning for Americans. Liberals have praised its accomplishments as typical of welfare states; conservatives have used Britain’s relatively slow growth and international decline as proof that welfare states cannot succeed. Both are mistaken. By almost any objective measure, such as the percentage of Gross National Product devoted to social services, Britain is the least developed welfare state in the European Economic Community (EEC)—with the exceptions of Italy and Ireland. It is Britain’s very backwardness as a welfare state that makes it relevant to Americans. Britain is the social insurance state most like the United States, not only in the limited scope of benefits but also in regard to slow economic growth and a conservative government inspired by individualism and monetarism. Britain is an incomplete welfare state under attack—a paradigm of what happens – when budget balancers and laissez-faire ideologues get their way. And Labour is now debating whether the welfare state can be saved.

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