Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma
Chapter 33: The welfare state and privatization
That any sane nation, having observed that you could provide for the supply of bread by giving bakers a pecuniary interest in baking for you, should go on to give a surgeon a pecuniary interest in cutting off your leg, is enough to make one despair of political humanity. George Bernard Shaw, The Doctor’s Dilemma, 1911. The ‘Great Capitalist Restoration’ (Stanfield and Stanfield, 1996) from the 1970s/1980s onward is predicated upon powerful convictions centring on economic efficiency and development, and the freedom and dignity of the individual. Indeed, so powerful are these convictions that they exude the aura of conventional wisdom. The welfare state has been, and continues to be, a prominent locus for these arguments. Yet there is some ambiguity concerning the nature of the ‘welfare state’ and what is meant by ‘privatization’. It is beyond the parameters of this chapter to furnish a comprehensive account of the complexities of this contested terrain, but none the less, some attempt will be made to furnish definitions that act as entry points to the principal focus of the discussion. This relates to an aspect of the second claim noted above: dignity. Neoliberalism embeds dignity in a particular conceptualization of individual freedom. In this literature, as Sen (1993) observed, freedom-achievements are associated with welfare-achievements.
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