Good, God and Self: A search for a new moral basis for our welfare state.
A paper presented by Alan Johnson, Social Policy Analyst of The Salvation Army’s Social Policy & Parliamentary Unit, to the Child Poverty Action Group’s Beyond Social Investment Summit on 8 September 2017.
While the New Zealand state of 1938 was definitely secular, it was nonetheless influenced philosophically by Christian morality, as was New Zealand society overall. New Zealand in the early 21st Century is a great deal more pluralistic and agnostic and it would therefore be accurate to claim that Christian morality has little place in public policy and only limited importance in public life. But what then is the moral basis for important public policies such as those around our welfare state? Moreover, if we are interested in re-imagining and re-constructing the welfare state, what could we use as the moral basis for such an exercise? That is the challenge considered in this paper.
This challenge is important because, for public policy to be broadly supported, it needs at its core a big organising idea. That is, something that is understood by citizens as the reason and purpose for the policy and that is sufficiently compelling for them to support it. This paper considers what this big organising idea might be for the a 21st Century welfare state here in Aotearoa New Zealand.