Panic is in the air, especially in the British public sector. Yesterday's comprehensive spending review prompted BBC Radio CWR to ask me this morning if this marks the end of Britain’s welfare state.
There will be a major contraction, for sure. At the same time, it is far from the end of welfarism as we have known it since the late 1940s. George Osborne’s cuts, if and when they take effect, will bring the government’s share of GDP back down just below 40 percent – that is, where it was in the early 2000s. At that time, less than a decade ago, the welfare state was still alive and well.
What will have changed? Most likely tomorrow's welfare state will be smaller than it is now. And the principles on which it is based are evolving. But given the scale of cutbacks, the evolution of the principles is surprisingly slow.