Top critical review
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A worthwhile read
on 1 April 2007
A useful primer for understanding some of the main ideological currents on issues of social welfare, but the conclusions tend towards New Labour policy prescriptions.
However, it's in the discussion of the funding of Higher Education when the wheels really come off. Any attempt at balance is suddenly deserted with the edict that There is No Alternative to tuition fees. This despite a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which concluded that the continued funding of HE from taxation or a graduate tax is certainly not unaffordable (whether desirable or not is obviously a value-judgement). As with the introduction of the policy itself, debate is simply not entered into, with alternatives dismissed out of hand. The idea that a system funded through income tax is `regressive' just doesn't wash: such a system was acceptable when just 5-7% went on to university, but is deemed regressive when that number rises towards 50%! Given that in absolute terms 95% of income tax is paid by the top 50% of earners (while 85%+ of those earning £100,000+ are graduates) it would seem not only the most effective, but also the most equitable solution - certainly more so than the educational poll tax of tuition fees. The closed nature of this discussion thus undermines confidence in the author's own university-based biases.
It is certainly worth reading, and deals well with the problems of privately-funded health care and provision for unemployment, disability and poverty, but is not without its own blind spots.