For universalism and against the means test

Carol Walker

in Fighting poverty, inequality and injustice

Published by Policy Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9781847427151
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447302353 | DOI:
For universalism and against the means test

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This chapter sets out the reasons for Peter's impassioned arguments against means tests and in favour of universalism: a campaign which began in the 1950s, in relation to failures of the British social security system, and ended with his critique of The World Bank's promotion of selectivity in developing economies in his final book Building decent societies. It explores the reasons why means-tested benefits systems have consistently been favoured by governments despite, and sometimes because, they do not reach all those for whom they are intended. It notes that Peter criticizes means tests for creating a hierarchy and a ‘division of the population into first-class and second-class citizens’, between the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’, between different categories of claimants and between claimants and taxpayers. It thus points out, the case for universalism is based on far more than its technical superiority to means-tested benefits — has a crucial role to play in the promotion of social justice and solidarity.

Keywords: means tests; universalism; British social security system; selectivity; Building decent societies; social justice; solidarity

Chapter.  6749 words. 

Subjects: Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility

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