‘What’s Fair and What Can We Afford? The Future of the Welfare State’ saw a lively morning of debate centring on the British Welfare State and the theoretical and practical direction its future should take.
Organised by the University’s Academy of Government and the School of Social and Political Sciences, the open discussion kicked off with an introductory debate between the two hosts, Professor Lindsay Paterson and Richard Parry. Each represented a different side to the central argument: should the Welfare State be formed around the idea of universalism, with everyone benefitting from its services regardless of income or socio-economic position, or should it accept selectivity and means testing as a necessity?
Such a timely debate was always going to cultivate passionate discussion, and this event was no exception. Most of the room had something (often a number of things) to say on the issue, and the fact that the event was fairly well attended only acts as further testimony to the relevance of the debate. The two hosts, meanwhile, provided plenty of food for thought and acted as impressive arbiters to the conversation. Their opening statements presenting the case for either side cleverly stoked the fires of opinion, and the resulting dialogue never lost its focus or momentum.
Such academic exchanges between students, lecturers and researchers is exactly what universities should be nurturing, and while reaching an agreed solution to such divisive political debates is nigh on impossible, it is in the thrashing out of arguments and testing of conclusions that answers can be tentatively reached.
Anyone who attended this event will have walked away feeling, if not entirely decided on the issue, at least intellectually stimulated.
Alistair Grant – History