Outline the key elements of the New Rights critique of public welfare

According to Alcock, 1996 the term New Right used to refer to the ‘pro-market, anti -state ideological perspective’ which came to be associated with the Conservative government in the 1970’s – 1980’s, it was this associated with Thatcherism and Conservatism’s influence that ‘made the New Right new’ (1996:126).The New (new) Right therefore started to emerged during the 1970’s in light of the economic crisis of 1973, and as a reaction to the rapid expansion of welfare state expenditure after the war. The New Right believed that Britain was in an economic crisis and had economically under-performed compared to its counterparts since the 2nd World War because of the growth in public and social welfare expenditure (George & Wilding, 1993; Alcock,1996).

The New Right believed their ideas concerning the welfare state were ‘absolutely essential’ if Britain’s economy was to survive and be transformed from its present crisis (Alcock, 1996). Their transformation of the welfare state was long overdue since they argued that the crisis of the economy and welfare began as a consequence of war and due to the Keynes and Beveridge’s ideals about society in the 1940’s which was a far cry from the society of the 1970’s.These notions were also supported by Masland, 1992 who felt that the Beveridge report upon which the welfare state was born, discourages individuals, self reliance, voluntary organisations and private incentives which was why the New Right were particularly critical of public welfare and were keen to see a reduction in public and social expenditure. A reduction of expenditure could only be achieved by transferring the responsibility of welfare services onto the private market together with a greater contribution form the voluntary and informal sectors hence a reduction in the role of the welfare state.

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George & Wilding, 1993 believed tat the New Right were critical of the welfare state upon economic, political and ideological grounds, it was the latter of these three which was based upon instinctive beliefs about human nature and human capacity that made the New Rights critique ‘profoundly ideological’ in nature and thus why they held a general attitude of ‘suspicion and anxiety’ towards the welfare state (1993:20).This essay will firstly look at how it criticised the welfare state ideological terms, secondly upon economic terms and lastly political terms. Crucial to the New Right’s critique of the public welfare in ideological terms, is the mistaken view held by public welfare supporters concerning human nature and the nature of society.The New Right argued that humans need incentives for good behaviour and punishment for bad behaviour, which is the exact reverse of what public welfare supports believe and what public welfare does, instead they see a more optimistic viewpoint of human nature and assume people will continue to be just as motivated and productive even if the costs of failure are reduced and taken care of by public welfare benefits, humans are driven and incensed to work by social concerns and social goals to work, hence they are not self centred and individualistic in natureThe New Right critics like Clarke ; Cochrane, 1994 thought very differently, they believed that the public welfare actually created disincentives to work and Gilder, 1981 argued that by providing for the unknown and the danger of failure damages the nature of capitalism and the nature of man.

High taxation and generous public welfare benefits presented the individual with an attractive alternative to paid employment and this creates a dependency culture.Alcock, 1996 further argued that high taxes to fund welfare expenditure and welfare benefit effectively discourages their motivation to provide for themselves and their families, once this happens and they become discourages they are also effectively trapped in the dependency culture which equates to poverty.Murray, 1990 was a firm believer, similarly to the New Right of the 1970’s that public welfare created a dependency culture and effected individuals behaviour and moral standings, Murray was on the other hand however writing about a different welfare state to that of the New Right in the 1970’s in which the New Right were more concerned with the effects of public welfare upon human nature.The New Right see human nature and individuals as self centred and individualistic in their motivation, which enables them to respond positively to individual reward and individual punishment, the reverse of the collectivism that is created by the public welfare system which according to George ; Wilding, 1993 is dangerous and naive.

Therefore it seems that the New Right are arguing that public welfare provides disincentives to work though high taxes and generous public welfare benefits, and a demoralisation of human nature and society whereby the fabric of the nation is undermined and damaged. Willets, 1992 supported these notions put forward by the New Right thinkers such as Clark ; Cockrane 1994 and George ; Wilding 1993.Willetts, 1992 felt that public welfare undermined the crucial social value of individual and social responsibility, since there is no consequences to individuals actions because the individual is protected, and compensated by the safety net or nanny state of public welfare which is a drain on society. Public welfare ignores the importance of individual choice and the promotion of individual growth and responsibilities, so the New Right argues because public welfare leads to the assumption that the state knows best and that politicians and professionals can be trusted with welfare provision.

For the New Right this is an unjustified faith, they cannot be trusted in ‘practice to know what sort of welfare services different people want or need’ (Alcock, 1993:129). For it is impossible for the state and the government to know how to meet these needs, any attempt which is made by public welfare with the notion that they do know and can meet these needs hence the opposed desired effect of meeting everyone individuals and in turn meets the needs of no-one (Alcock, 1993).According to the New Right the welfare state should concentrated on allowing individuals to take responsibility for their own welfare needs through private forms of welfare provision, where there is increased choice and individuals growth of responsibilities, instead of the responsibility and choice being determined and the responsibility of the state hence minimal state involvement in the provision of welfare is the answer to societies and everyone’s needs.For the New Right public welfare emphasises rights not responsibilities and obligations, which are essential for a functional, healthy society.

Mead, 1986 argued that public welfare encourage individuals to perceive society as responsible for providing everything for the individual rather than the individual providing for society, in a sense a belief that society owes the individual a living.Mead looked towards the public welfare in the US for evidence of his critique where although they didn’t have such a generous public welfare system as the UK they still had ‘minimal meaningful obligations’ attached to the welfare they provided (1986:3), and thus portrayed a message of welfare being a social right to all citizens not an obligation, which also relates back to the notion of a dependency culture with the philosophy that paid employment is not necessary due to public welfare.As well as criticising public welfare upon its ideologies the New Right were also critical of its efficiency and effectiveness in providing welfare. Universal public welfare services that are tax funded and part of state monopolies denies individuals freedom of choice and encourages inefficiency whereby the delivery of services is geared towards the interests of the organised producers rather than the consumers of welfare (Pierson, 1998).

Universalism of welfare does not encourage competition and therefore there is no real incentive for the producers of welfare to improve their efficiency and effectiveness as they are doing the job they set out to do e. g. the NHS provides universal health care which that George ; Wilding, 1993 would argue is why public welfare is insufficient and ineffective for everyone, due to funding and universalise.The New Right were not just critical of public welfare in ideological and efficiently and effectiveness terms but upon economic and political grounds.

Firstly, the New Right critique public welfare, according to Alcock, 1996 for being generally economically damaging because it interferes with the free workings or the market, the driving force for economic growth, leading to a reduction in capital growth and development that weakens the economy hence why the 1973 economic and welfare crisis occurred.According to George ; Wilding 1993 and Alcock 1996, public welfare and expenditure are a crippling drain on private market wealth and a burden on the productive elements of the economy. Due to the fact that stare provision for welfare reduces individual incentives to provide for themselves and save this in turn leads to reduced investment and savings that leads to economic recession, the recession in the 1970’s was only defeated by reducing public and state expenditure together with a reduced role of the state in public welfare.For the continuation and future growth of the economy, according to the New Right welfare expenditure and the role of the state needs to continue in defiantly otherwise Britain will face another recession (Alcock, 1993), Secondly, the New Right critique public welfare upon political grounds, their critique is focussed around the political choice theory, while although Alcock, 1993 agrees it is dubious its is however a persuasive argument.

Public welfare policies and services mean that government’s power, control and responsibilities are increased because of the ideology that social problems are due to social and structural factors. For example poverty is no longer thought upon as the fault of the individual it is due to societal factors, that should be solved and compensated for by public welfare, this is an understandable ideology George ; Wilding, 1993 argue since if its societies fault that an individual is in poverty they should find a welfare policy to solve and compensate for their misfortune.However, the New Right argue that the government only assumes responsibility for the problems because they want to be ‘electorally popular’ (Alcock, 1993:129), not because they have any real interest in solving societies social problems, sine they cannot be resolved through welfare and failure of the government upon this aim is inevitable which leads to the ‘loss of standing and authority (George & Wilding, 1993:35). In conclusion, therefore, the New Right have argued that public welfare is ‘undesirable in theory and unworkable in practice’ (Alcock, 1993:129).

They have critique the role of the state in public welfare policies upon ideological, political and economic grounds and their contribution to the debate concerning public welfare, according to George & Wilding, 1993, is ‘nothing more than critical (1993:45). Many however have argued that the New Rights alternative to public welfare is as impractical and undesirable as their own critique of public welfare, their ideologies do not offer a practical way to the complexed social needs of society.Nevertheless, the New Right supporter, Hayek, 1976 states that the New Right were not prepared to tolerate a total disappearance of public welfare, they envisaged a new public welfare system that ‘primarily gave selection and residual provision for those unable to provide for themselves through the private market’ (Alcock, 1993:129), due to the fact that a society without any form of public welfare would reduce the freedom and opportunities of those in society and make them far worse off than with an over generous public welfare system.More recent New Right thinkers have also come to realise that in reality a safety net of welfare is not only desirable but essential, but what constitutes a safety net of welfare is very subjective and left up to individual governments and politicians to interpretate how they wish.For example to subsequent Conservative government, under Mrs Thatcher they tried to reform and implement a New Right interpretation of a safety net of public welfare, originally they contemplated a revolutionary challenge to the state but in reality like the New Right the reform was restricted to the restructuring of the management and operation of welfare services and towards private sections of welfare alongside public welfare.The New Right’s ideologies upon welfare have proved to be very influential for the development welfare policies under the Conservative government of the 1970’s – 1980’s, Thathcher states Riddle, 1991 agreed and implemented many of the New Rights ideologies but she was in no sense the champion of any specific New Right ideology, as there were many other ideologies complexed ideologies present therefore Conservatism was not just the New Rights ideologies under a new name as many believed.

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