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What was 'new' about the Liberal Social Reforms?

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Introduction

What was 'new' about the Liberal Social Reforms? The key concept of Old Liberalism was the view of society as a collection of individuals. From this came the idea that the only proper, decent way to encourage economic growth, and thus, a better country, was to encourage entrepreneurship, and individual liberty. The Classical Liberalists were against Government intervention in the lives of their populace for this reason, as they believed that were they to help people who found themselves in trouble, then they would give them no motivation to drag themselves out of their problems, thus stunting entrepreneurship. The government's role, in the eyes of these Gladstonian Liberals should be solely to remove all barriers to individualism, and to provide very limited social services. To do anymore to interfere in the lives of those downtrodden masses would be to removes the need for self-improvement, and thus the need to make your own money, and finally would stagnate the economy. New Liberalism, however, took a much different view. It was, it was said, the governments duty to help those in need, and give them support. It could be argued, they said, that to intervene in people's lives at some point could actually provide the liberty that self-help denied them. ...read more.

Middle

Act, 1907 mainly dealt with what the local education system could offer its pupils in terms of social support. The first one allowed schools to provide meals for malnourished children, and the second allowed for medical inspections of children. While these were both positive steps, it is telling that neither reform had to be taken up by the local authorities, and thus they forced little un-voluntary social change. The third act dealing with children, however, The Children's Act, 1908, was a far grander step, focusing on child neglect and abuse. It forbade children from entering pubs, set up juvenile courts and remand homes, ending the imprisonment of children under the age of 14, and stopped them buying cigarettes. This had a major impact on society, changing the way children were viewed, and improving conditions for them nation wide. A few miscellaneous other acts were passed, such as the Probation Act, which established probation as an alternative to prison, and the Merchant Shipping Act, which set up basic legal conditions aboard ships for seamen, and forced foreign vessels who wanted to dock in British ports to adopt the same standards. While these were obviously not Old Liberal reforms, they were not as far a push as some people would have wanted. ...read more.

Conclusion

This set up two separate forms of insurance for workers in certain industries nationwide. The first, Health Insurance, worked by taking two pence from the weekly the wage of every worker. The employer then added three pence and the government another two. The second form of insurance, unemployment insurance, worked the same way. This was a very New Liberal idea, and it provided a 'safety net' for those who couldn't work, due to injury or plain misfortune. The Miner's Minimum Wage Act, 1912, and the Trade Union Act, 1913, were both aimed at correcting previous injustices against the miners, and perhaps trying to draw their support. This was one of the key industries in Britain, and one where there were astonishingly bad conditions for the workers involved. It is obvious from looking over these acts that New Liberalism had thoroughly taken hold of the government by this point. There was now a far greater amount of support for those at the poorer end of the British social scale. The reforms were revolutionary, and were so effective that many of them still exist today in some form. New Liberalism, while it had many similarities to Old Liberalism, was defiantly a different beast, and one that forwarded the living conditions of the poorest of the poor in Britain to a more secure, pleasant time. David Hendy 12SMC ...read more.

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