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The Welfare State: What’s it for?

7:30pm, Tuesday 26 May 2009, Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.

With cuts in public spending looming, the question of the welfare state can no longer be brushed aside. Once celebrated as a keystone of post-war Britain, the welfare state is today accused of fostering a dependency culture that traps millions.

But is it only the long term unemployed who are dependent? Some argue that the ideology of welfarism has fostered a climate of benign government intervention into all lives which is profoundly illiberal. On the other hand, there are people who are genuinely dependent. Some argue that the state doesn’t meet their needs sensitively enough. But when needs are defined psychologically as well as physically, this becomes a fraught question.

So what is the role of the welfare state today? Is an expansion of its role inevitable in a recession? Is welfare incompatible with personal freedom and independence? Should the state attempt to ‘manage’ people away from dependence even if it means a deprivation of their liberty in the short term?

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