The Elgar Companion to Social Economics
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The Elgar Companion to Social Economics

Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma

As this comprehensive Companion demonstrates, social economics is a dynamic and growing field that emphasizes the key role that values play in the economy and in economic life. Social economics treats the economy and economics as being embedded in the larger web of social and ethical relationships. It also regards economics and ethics as essentially connected, and adds values such as justice, fairness, dignity, well-being, freedom and equality to the standard emphasis on efficiency. The Elgar Companion to Social Economics brings together the leading contributors in the field to elucidate a wide range of recent developments across different subject areas and topics. In so doing the contributors also map the likely trends and directions of future research. This Companion will undoubtedly become a leading reference source and guide to social economics for many years to come.
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Chapter 29: The Welfare State and Privatization

Robert McMaster


Robert McMaster 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, 19111 Introduction 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. For example, Wiseman (1991) contests that if ‘welfare’ is identified with the ‘existence of caring feelings’, then the market is revealed as the conduit not only to greater welfare and...

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