Category Archives: Opinion

OPINION: Report from the NA-BIG Conference

The Eleventh North American Basic Income Guarantee (NA-BIG) Congress took place at the University of Toronto on May 3-5, 2012. I had the privilege of attending this conference. It provided an unusual opportunity for me to go to a NA-BIG Congress purely as a participant, because I had almost nothing to do with the organization of it this year.

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OPINION: Interesting times for Alaska’s Fund and Dividend

Alaska’s basic income is cursed with interesting times. The Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) is a small, variable basic income given yearly to every Alaskan who meets the state’s residency requirement. The size of the dividend is determined by several different factors, all of which are facing increased uncertainty and possibly moving in different directions.

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Review: Graham Room, Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy: Agile decision-making in a turbulent world

Graham Room, Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy: Agile decision-making in a turbulent world, Edward Elgar, 2011, vii + 383pp, hbk, 0 85793 263 1, £95 This is one of those rare books which studies the deeper foundations of theory and practice: not just a particular social policy field, and not even the way in which social policy is either made

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Review: Paul Spicker, How Social Security Works: An introduction to benefits in Britain

Paul Spicker, How Social Security Works: An introduction to benefits in Britain, Policy Press, 2011, xii + 284 pp, hbk 1847428110, £65, pbk, 1847428103, £23.99 This well-organised book is what it says it is: an ‘introduction’ to the ‘design, management, operation and delivery of benefits’ (p.ix). Its careful structure enables Spicker to bring a sense of order to a system

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Review: Beverley A. Searle, Well-being: In search of a good life

In this thorough and very readable book Beverley Searle employs extensive panel survey data to study people’s subjective well-being and the economic and material contexts of their lives. A complex picture emerges. As we would expect, someone’s health influences their subjective well-being; interestingly, people over 55 tend to report higher subjective well-being than those under 55; and having and changing social relationships can affect subjective well-being in a variety of ways.

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Review: Social Policy and Administration

As Bent Greve writes in his introduction to this highly topical edition of Social Policy and Administration, the financial crisis which began in 2008 has given rise to ‘a new era of welfare states … where targeting and emphasis on work are more substantial than earlier’ (p.333). Cuts in welfare budgets mean lower and more restricted benefits and higher retirement ages. The aim is now to save money rather than to improve services.

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Review: Thomas Bahle, Vanessa Hubl, and Michaela Pfeifer, The Last Safety Net: A handbook of minimum income protection in Europe

This thoroughly researched survey of European means-tested minimum income protection (MIP) systems – the safety-nets into which households and individuals fall if other earned or benefits income is insufficient – will quickly become an essential research tool for anyone interested in social policy generally and in income maintenance in particular. The more precarious nature of both families and employment has made means-tested safety nets more significant for increasing numbers of citizens, which means that means-tested systems will become more politically important (and this, in turn, is one of the factors that has led to Iain Duncan Smith’s success with Universal Credit). Greater political importance will mean more social policy debate, more need for research, and more need for books such as this one.

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Review: Kevin Farnsworth and Zoë Irving (eds), Social Policy in Challenging Times: Economic crisis and welfare systems

Whilst in all of the countries studied in this edited collection the welfare state can be regarded as entering a new age of austerity, the picture that emerges is one of diversity: of different kinds of financial crisis in different countries, of different cultural contexts, and of different effects on welfare provision. For instance: ‘Liberal market economies … are least well equipped in both economic buffers and social solidarity to deal with the impact of a crisis in welfare funding because interests are not shared corporately or between social classes’

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Review: Tony Fitzpatrick, Welfare Theory: An introduction to the theoretical debates in social policy

This accessible and thoroughly researched book is also a vindication of Fitzpatrick’s conviction that ‘welfare theory’ – the philosophy of social policy – is a discipline in its own right. Welfare theory draws on both ‘social theory (the philosophy of sociology and social science) and political theory (the philosophy of politics and government)’ (p.xv), but it orders things in its own way and develops its own emphases. It is not insignificant that the first chapter is entitled ‘wellbeing’, now a focal concept for welfare theorists and social policy makers.

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