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Basic Income is gaining increasing prominence. The paper analyses the idea. Six confusions are discussed and suggestions made for greater clarity. Five claims made for Basic Income are considered – that unconditionality is just, that individualised simplicity is fair, that it is economically efficient, that it is compatible with the future labour market, and is politically feasible. All five of these claims are found to be wanting. Some of the choices that must be made in developing policy to reduce poverty are reviewed. The paper concludes that if the aim is to tackle poverty, Basic Income is not the solution.

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This chapter takes on a social policy perspective to study public policy and social justice. It begins by outlining the key features of the theories by Robert Nozick, John Rawls, and Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. It then identifies the things these theories have in common and what their principal differences are. It also considers some of the implications of these theories. The chapter finally discusses the relationship of public policy and private behaviour, the issues children pose for social justice, and global inequality and justice in the world.

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This chapter reviews developments in social security and anti-poverty policy in recent years under the Labour government, and shows that both poverty and inequality have fallen. The evidence up to 2004–05 shows that ‘redistribution works’, even if that was not part of the language used by New Labour. However, this success has come at the price of increased complexity, high effective marginal tax rates and a split in responsibility between government departments (the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions). Moreover, it is not clear whether this relative success has actually been perceived by the general public, or translated into popular support for the policies concerned. Nor is it apparent what are the next steps that would move poverty rates down below those achieved in 2004–05 to achieve the promised halving of child poverty by 2010, let alone make them among the ‘best in Europe’ by 2020.

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After 18 years of Conservative government there was:

  • more poverty – one third of children living in families under half average income level;

  • more inequality between rich and poor;

  • more dependence on state benefits, particularly means-tested benefits;

  • more homelessness and people living on the streets.

The changes had been driven by the philosophy of the New Right, seeking to roll back the state and rely on markets with only residual social welfare. This philosophy had powerful attractions. As Keynes wrote:

The Economists were teaching that wealth, commerce and machinery were the children of free competition.… But the Darwinians could go one better than that – free competition had built Man. The human eye was no longer the demonstration of (God’s) Design, miraculously contriving all things for the best; it was the supreme achievement of Chance, operating under conditions of free competition and laissez-faire. The principle of the Survival of the Fittest could be regarded as a vast generalisation of Ricardian economics. Socialistic interferences became, in the light of this grander synthesis, not merely inexpedient, but impious, as calculated to retard the onward movement of the mighty process by which we ourselves had risen like Aphrodite out of the primeval slime of Ocean. (Keynes, 1927, pp 13-14)

Yet as Keynes’ essay on the end of laissez-faire continued:

This is what the economists are supposed to have said. No such doctrine is really to be found in the writings of the greatest authorities … the popularity of the doctrine must be laid at the door of the political philosophers of the day, whom it happened to suit, rather than the political economists. (Keynes, 1927, pp 17-18)

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The Wilson and Callaghan Labour governments of 1974-79 have been widely vilified. Their record on poverty and inequality is examined in terms of expectations and achievements. Outcomes for the elderly, children and disabled people are examined and the distribution of earnings and income and the extent of poverty are assessed. The record of a modest reduction in poverty and little change in inequality are in marked contrast with the increases of the preceding and succeeding Conservative governments. Lessons of continuing relevance are drawn concerning the central role of redistribution.

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Essays in honour of Howard Glennerster

Social policy is now central to political debate in Britain. What has been achieved by efforts to improve services and reduce poverty? What is needed to deliver more effective and popular services to all and increase social justice? How can we make social policy work? These are some of the questions discussed in this new and wide-ranging collection of essays by a distinguished panel of leading social policy academics.

The book covers key issues in contemporary social policy, particularly concentrating on recent changes. It examines the history and goals of social policy as well as its delivery, focusing in turn on the family and the state, schools, higher education, healthcare, social care, communities and housing. Redistribution is also examined, exploring child poverty, pension reform and resources for welfare.

The essays in this collection have been specially written to honour the 70th birthday of Howard Glennerster whose pioneering work has been concerned not only with the theoretical, historical and political foundations of social policies but, crucially, with how they work in practice. It is a collection of primary importance for those working in and interested in policy and politics in a wide variety of fields and for students of social policy, public policy and the public sector.

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This introductory chapter begins by briefly setting out the focus of the book, namely contemporary issues, particularly on the ways in which social policy in Britain has been reshaped in the first decade of the 21st century, the arguments that lay behind those changes, and the issues that they raise for the future evolution of policy. This is followed by overview of the subsequent chapters. The ingredients that make policy work and the work of Howard Glennerster are discussed.

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Social policy is now central to political debate in Britain. What has been achieved by efforts to improve services and reduce poverty? What is needed to deliver more effective and popular services to all and increase social justice? How can we make social policy work? These are some of the questions discussed in this book. The book covers key issues in contemporary social policy, particularly concentrating on recent changes. It examines the history and goals of social policy as well as its delivery, focusing in turn on the family and the state, schools, higher education, healthcare, social care, communities and housing. Redistribution is also examined, exploring child poverty, pension reform and resources for welfare. The chapters in this collection have been specially written to honour the 70th birthday of Howard Glennerster whose pioneering work has been concerned not only with the theoretical, historical and political foundations of social policies but, crucially, with how they work in practice. It is a collection of primary importance for those working in and interested in policy and politics in a wide variety of fields and for students of social policy, public policy, and the public sector.

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Social policy is now central to political debate in Britain. What has been achieved by efforts to improve services and reduce poverty? What is needed to deliver more effective and popular services to all and increase social justice? How can we make social policy work? These are some of the questions discussed in this book. The book covers key issues in contemporary social policy, particularly concentrating on recent changes. It examines the history and goals of social policy as well as its delivery, focusing in turn on the family and the state, schools, higher education, healthcare, social care, communities and housing. Redistribution is also examined, exploring child poverty, pension reform and resources for welfare. The chapters in this collection have been specially written to honour the 70th birthday of Howard Glennerster whose pioneering work has been concerned not only with the theoretical, historical and political foundations of social policies but, crucially, with how they work in practice. It is a collection of primary importance for those working in and interested in policy and politics in a wide variety of fields and for students of social policy, public policy, and the public sector.

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