Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Public policy futures: A Left trilemma?

an article by Peter Taylor-Gooby (University of Kent, UK) published in Critical Social Policy Volume 33 Number 3 (August 2013)


Why is it so hard for the Left to produce a coherent, progressive and practicable response to the crisis, when markets and private enterprise have so obviously failed?

One answer is that the Left faces a trilemma in developing adequate, electable and progressive public policy.

It must respond adequately to the economic crisis to be seen as competent, it must address the established themes in public opinion to be electable, and it must develop generous and inclusive policies, to be progressive.

This article identifies conflicts in all three areas: low public sector productivity growth and demographic shifts tighten already harsh spending constraints. Entrenched public suspicions of higher taxes for any but the distant rich and a public discourse which makes rigid distinctions between those deserving and undeserving of state welfare conflict with egalitarian or redistributive policies. Both spending constraints and the key themes in public opinion conflict with generous and inclusive policies.

The Coalition strategy, by contrast, rests on a private enterprise-led recovery, work-ethic values and policies that exclude less deserving groups. It does not face the same problems.

This article analyses a range of policy programmes suggested by commentators on the centre-left in the light of these points.

It concludes that a central task for a progressive strategy is not so much designing the policies which will be attractive and will meet needs effectively as developing a framework of provision which will help to build solidarity and shift public discourse in order to make inclusive and generous policy possible.

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