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Roundtable: What should we do with the welfare state?

Do we need a new mix of private and public money to pay for welfare? Is there a "bottom 15 per cent" problem? Can Labour rebuild the benefit system around the work ethic? A group of analysts consider these questions and the larger dilemma-can we enjoy social diversity without undermining the moral consensus on which welfare depends?

By Pamela Meadows   March 1998

Pam Meadows: As we get richer and live longer we want to spend more on services (education, health, social care) which are still supplied mainly by the state. GDP per head in Britain has doubled since the 1950s, but there is a perception that the welfare state has become less affordable and less effective, and that we may have to choose between a universal and a safety net system. Labour has launched a high profile policy initiative without a clear idea of what it wants to do. We shall try to help. Let us start with the basic question: can…

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