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To What Extent did the Liberals Create a Welfare State Between 1906-1914?

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To What Extent did the Liberals Create a Welfare State Between 1906-1914? Between 1906 and 1914 the Liberal party introduced a series of (considering the period), radical reforms. These new reforms were based on the idea of New Liberalism. Through these new reforms it is argued that the Liberals created a modern welfare state. The definition of a welfare state varies from author to author but it is basically a state in which the government is responsible for providing social and economic security for the population. The evidence suggests that during this period the Liberals only laid the foundations for a welfare state, rather than actually creating one. The Liberals social reforms found their basis in New Liberalism, which believed in a different attitude to poverty. It preached greater state intervention and responsibility in helping people who were poor through no fault of their own. This was a break with the past attitude of a laissez faire (leave it alone). The Liberals were genuinely concerned for the elderly, poor children and those poor through sickness and unemployment, and introduced reforms to try to help these groups. Through these reforms it could be argued that the Liberals went a long way towards, or did in fact create a Welfare State. One of the first reforms introduced was the Provision of School Meals act. ...read more.


Altogether this act was an important extension of state aid and established the principle that health and unemployment schemes should be provided by the state. Another reason it could be argued that the Liberals created a welfare state is that the Peoples budget aimed to among other things, redistribute wealth. Taxes were raised in this budget in order to pay for state run social schemes and it established the idea that taxation ought to be related to capacity of pay. It aimed at a limited redistribution of wealth from the rich to the deserving poor, and particularly targeted those on higher incomes (especially landowners). Many people see the redistribution of wealth to be a very important part of any welfare state, so yet again the Liberals were taking a step towards creating a modern welfare state. Although when the legislation is first studied it appears the Liberals had in fact created a welfare state, in truth many of the above reforms didn't go far enough. Many had exclusions or were voluntary, and many areas also remained unreformed altogether. The Liberals never actually wanted or intended to create a Welfare state; they had no overall plan of reform, and each proposal was a response to an individual crisis. This is illustrated by the fact that no social reform proposals were mentioned in their 1906 campaign. ...read more.


Although the legislation the Liberals introduced was limited in comparison to everyday standards, and in relation to the problems at this time, considering the period it was crucial and radical. It was the first time a government had intervened in peoples' lives, and had attempted to try to help people in poverty. A large amount of legislation was introduced to try to help the deserving poor, but these acts provided a 'minimum', rather than a 'maximum' standard of living. The Liberals really fell short of providing a coherent welfare package and much was left undone. The Liberals never in fact aimed to create a welfare state, but rather to provide a basic minimum. Churchill himself said after introducing the old age pensions that they never wished to take the 'toiler to dry land', but sought only to 'strap a lifeboat around him'. To a certain extent the Liberals created a modern welfare state, but what is nearer to the truth is that they created a social security state. This meant that the government maintained certain minimum standards rather than creating a Welfare State. They laid down the framework or foundations of a welfare state rather than actually creating it. As B.B Gilchrist said' They took British society into an entirely new field of activity, and although by no means solving the problem of the condition of the people, they settled the lines upon which the final solution would be found.' ...read more.

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