What is meant by the term New Right

The term New Right is used to refer to the ‘pro-market, anti -state ideological perspective’ which came to be associated with the Conservative government in the 1970’s – 1980’s’. (Alcock, 1996:126) The New Right started to emerged during the 1970’s in light of the economic crisis of 1973, and as a reaction to the rapid expansion of welfare state expenditure after the war. The New Right believed that Britain was in an economic crisis and had economically under-performed compared to its counterparts since the 2nd World War because of the growth in public and social welfare expenditure (George & Wilding, 1994).

The New Right believed their ideas concerning the welfare state were ‘absolutely essential’ if Britain’s economy was to survive and be transformed from its present crisis (Alcock, 1996). Their transformation of the welfare state was long overdue since they argued that the crisis of the economy and welfare began as a consequence of war and due to the Keynes and Beveridge’s ideals about society in the 1940’s which was a far cry from the society of the 1970’s.

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These notions were also supported by Marsland, 1996 who felt that the Beveridge report upon which the welfare state was born, discourages individuals, self-reliance, voluntary organizations and private incentives which was why the New Right were particularly critical of public welfare and were keen to see a reduction in public and social expenditure. Those who subscribe to the tenets of the New Right have objected to the welfare state on grounds of principle and practice.

These objections can be broadly categorised as philosophical, economic and social. On philosophical grounds the main argument against the welfare state is that it poses unacceptable threat to personal freedom. To compel citizens to pay for collectively organised services, which they may be ineligible or unwilling to use, ultimately by threat of criminal sanction, is seen as undermining individual liberty.

For those without the requisite post-tax income to choose for non-state provision, the denial of choice is seen as a serious destruction of personal freedom. Another criticism of welfare state activity concerns on economic objections. Supporters of the New Right argue that the rising level of taxation required to finance welfare expansion has created work disincentives. The imposition of higher tax rates is seen as creating inflationary pressures in the economy as workers seek to protect their living standards through higher pay demands.

Finally, according to the New Right the operation of the welfare state has also given rise to a number of undesirable social effects. It is argued that the granting of rights to several of welfare services has encouraged citizens to neglect their responsibilities for meeting their own needs and those of their dependents. It is contended that one of the fundamental problem with welfare state is the lack of any explicit demands or expectation on those who receive help.

As Marsland (1996) notes: ‘Rights based welfare provides continuing, explicit, almost irresistible encouragement to clients to demand more and more by way of fulfillment of the state’s irresponsible promises, while giving nothing in return'(Marsland, 1996:177). To sum up in 1970’s in light of the economic crisis the welfare state came under fundamental attack which raised important debate about the future of welfare state. The New Right thinkers developed significant critiques of welfare state, grounded in philosophical, economic, and social objections.