Date of Award
Senior Scholars Paper (Colby Access Only)
Colby College. Government Dept.
This essay is a plea for the making of the pragmatic changes capable of enhancing equality while at the same time dynamizing what can remain a fundamentally free-market economy. In this regard, those anticipating a Marxist diatribe against capitalist oppression will be sadly disappointed, as will those expecting a conservative legitimization of a feeble status quo. Through an examination of welfare policy in the U. S., Great Britain and Sweden, I hope to transcend the notion of what Marquis Childs' once called the "Middle Way"--a society in which equality and capitalist efficiency can co-exist. It will be my contention that they can more than co-exist. If managed correctly, they can be mutually reinforcing. Thus, after outlining the unacceptable position that the U.S. presently occupies, we will move on to Britain in an attempt to see how the classic liberal society can be peacefully transformed to the brink of social success. Finally, we will examine Sweden--a segment which will serve the tri-faceted benefit of: A) showing why British policy, in practice, never fully realized its objectives; B) demonstrate that the advanced welfare policies of Sweden prove that innovation and integration in policy-making will win out over "rugged individualism" every time; and C) that despite empty excuses about relative size and homogeneity, this "changed mind set"is the direction in which both Britain and the U.S. should be looking for the answer to the age-old problem of getting equality and economic efficiency to work in harmony. The conclusion will examine ways of setting this process in motion. Before entering into analysis, I feel we first need to pose the question "why equality?" Is it simply good for its own sake? I would argue ho. But neither are the eviIs and injustices of an unregulated market economy; or the inefficiency and immobility of the giant "communist" systems. As such, I am taking the social democratic approach--one despised by liberals and Marxists alike--which, to paraphrase Keynes, states that while the capitalist machine is essentially the best available, it requires constant tinkering with to insure that it does not injure those it was intended to serve. In Keynesian vernacular, "tinkering" was another word for state intervention. Thus, I am not as much pro-egalitarian as I am anti-inegalitarian. It is my belief that while biological inequality will always exist, as humans we get but one chance at life. As such, all must be allowed to manifest their individual potential. The diversity inherently wrought on by competition is desirable, however ascribed privilege (inherited wealth, status ... ) cannot be permitted to be the primary determinant of what one's station in life is to become. Hence, within the context of this paper, I hope to demonstrate that the welfare state is the most feasible method of addressing such issues. The study is divided into four segments. The first concerns itself with outlining the three major types of welfare states as they are defined in Norman Furniss and Timothy Tilton's authoritative work The Case for the Welfare State, specifically: the positive [minimalist], the social security [intermediate] and the social welfare [advanced] states. Next, by examining the evolution and performance of social reform in America, Britain, and Sweden, we can view the aforementioned welfare paradigms in action. Finally, after outlining the/positive social, political, and economic benefits of state intervention along the lines of the Swedish model, I hope to propose several ways in which we as Americans can begin to work for change in this direction.
Modern Welfare State, social policy, United States, Great Britain, Sweden, social security
Recommended CitationThaxter, Jeffrey D., "The Modern Welfare State: Pathway to Progress, or Road to Ruin? A Comparative Analysis of Social Policy in the US, Great Britain, and Sweden" (1987). Senior Scholar Papers. Paper 513.
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