C-19: Redefining the state of welfare?



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  • Major crises such as wars and pandemics (such as the 1918-19 Spanish Flu) have often been the occasion for radical reconstruction of the welfare system. It is very likely that the Covid-19 pandemic will also do this.

  • This is because it will bring discontent with the existing system to a head and will lay bare its weaknesses, particularly as regards its central element, Universal Credit.

  • There will be a major public debate or conversation. Indeed it has already begun.

  • In that conversation one idea that is bound to have a lot of support and has a ‘head start’ is that of a Guaranteed Minimum Income and in particular one version of that, a Universal Basic Income.

  • There are however strong doubts or objections to that idea, from all parts of the spectrum, and there are several rival ideas.

  •  The debate cannot be a purely technical one because it touches upon fundamental questions, which have also been raised by the impact of the virus: the place of the home and household; the importance and nature of work; and the role of civil society and voluntary action.

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Head of Education

Dr Steve Davies is the Head of Education at the IEA. Previously he was program officer at the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) at George Mason University in Virginia. He joined IHS from the UK where he was Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and Economic History at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has also been a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. A historian, he graduated from St Andrews University in Scotland in 1976 and gained his PhD from the same institution in 1984. He has authored several books, including Empiricism and History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) and was co-editor with Nigel Ashford of The Dictionary of Conservative and Libertarian Thought (Routledge, 1991).