Professor David Garland on the history of the welfare state and why it matters

Professor David Garland on the history of the welfare state and why it matters


Up until the 19th century, up until the
effort to establish a ‘laissez faire’ free-market society , all previous
existing societies in- in Europe, around the world have always subjected economic
production and exchange to social and moral and religious regulation, and
there’s a reason for that. Basically, economic profit-making is not
the most important thing in most existence as most people’s lives, and
societies have always been concerned to ensure that where markets exist, where
exchange, and profit, and trade is ongoing that they shouldn’t be allowed to leave
people destitute, throw people out of work, undermine the religious and the moral institutions, and commitments of the organizations, so the long term story is
it’s always been normal to have the social regulation over the collectivity
on the economic action of its manufacturers and producers. The
exception to that long term history is the effort to establish a liberal
laissez faire free-market society and that ended in disaster.
Basically that ended in producing the mass unemployment of the 1930s and
the collapse of democracy, fascism, Nazism, communism, all of these were the result
of a long- a century long effort to establish a free-market society. So, the
lesson of the Second World War, the lesson of the the collapse of democracy
was basically that if capitalism is to be made compatible with human life and
social flourishing and well-being, it has to be regulated and has to be regulated
in the collective interest by the state, and the welfare states the outcrop of
that. It’s only recently where the welfare state established three decades
of prosperity , and growth and productivity that people began to think
maybe we could do without it maybe we can return to the free market, and I
think that the disaster of 2007-2008 reminded us of how short-sighted that
was.

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