This report is intended to provide both a record and a critical assessment of the third workshop of the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society’s programme on The Social Contract Revisited: The Modern Welfare State. The workshop was held in Oxford on 23rd to 25th April 2008.
The third workshop of the programme The Social Contract Revisited: The Modern Welfare State dealt with questions of taxation and distributive justice. Though many writers on welfare focus exclusively on spending, surprisingly few have written on just takings, that being left to tax scholars and libertarian constitutional law scholars.
A complete account of the social contract demands attention not only to what the state must provide, but also to the financial burden these provisions entail and the way they will be funded. This is one good reason for investigating taxation within the scope of the analysis.
Jean Baptiste Colbert, Finance Minister to Louis XIV
The current UK government has invested heavily in labour market activation, both as an economic and social strategy. This has resulted in the phased introduction of significant changes to welfare provision, operating alongside other activation-based initiatives, including a high-profile skills agenda, a national childcare strategy, and ‘family-friendly’ employment policies to smooth the path to paid work for those with family responsibilities.
Contemporary welfare states remain in need of powerful policies aimed at protecting against new social risks, inclusion through work, and more equality in education and the labour market. Clearly, in less stratified societies, such as in Scandinavia, there is less scope for Matthew effects and these social policies are likely to be more effective.
‘Loyalty benefits’ are transfer payments designed to motivate or reward citizens for serving the state, either tangibly or symbolically. Classic examples are benefits to soldiers and civil servants, and today, special benefits granted to political refugees.
But like the trademark social insurance schemes invented by conservative welfare states, loyalty benefits may also be used as a way of reinforcing status barriers between groups, including ethnic hierarchies embodied in the collective identity projects of states.
In this report and series of policy briefs, leading political scientists and policymakers examine the role of personal responsibility in creating the conditions necessary to achieve equality of opportunity.
Should personal circumstance and behaviour be a determinant in the allocation of resources or should the welfare state be blind to all but individual need? Is the notion of contract a valid one when applied to welfare relationships, and how far should our conception of responsibility extend into the realms of education and health policy?