Locking horns with welfare foe

May 24, 1996

David Marsland's continuing attempt to portray the welfare state as an unmitigated disaster is, as usual, wide of the mark. Although it has a number of shortcomings, the post-1945 welfare state has played an important role not only in improving the living standards of the disadvantaged, but also in providing a wider range of opportunities for all our citizens and contributing towards social cohesion.

The collectivist welfare state has acted as a bulwark against the market madness of the New Right and now needs to be refreshed rather than dismantled. It is pleasing to see that the tide of public opinion is now turning back towards the collectivist visions of Titmuss, Abel Smith and Townsend on grounds of both social justice and efficiency. In bidding farewell to the selfish individualism of the 1980s and 1990s we can once again begin to build a fairer, more equal and more altruistic society.

Robert Page Lecturer in social policy and administration University of Nottingham

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