In 1982 Julian Le Grand in his text, The Strategy of Equality delivered the message that ‘almost all public expenditure on the social services in Britain benefits the better off to a greater extent than the poor’. This has been developed into the conventional wisdom, that the welfare state has failed to achieve equality. However, this pessimistic verdict may be challenged on a number of grounds. First, it is debatable to what extent the welfare state was intended to achieve the types of equality defined by Le Grand. Second, it is possible to arrive at a less pessimistic conclusion both by re-examining Le Grand's original evidence and by examining subsequent evidence on the extent of equality achieved by the welfare state. This article examines the pessimistic thesis on both conceptual and empirical grounds, with a specific focus on the National Health Service. It is concluded that reports of the failure of the welfare state may be premature.
(Received February 23 1993)
(Accepted December 14 1993)
* I would like to thank Dr Enid Fox of the University of Hertfordshire, and the Journal's referees for comments on earlier drafts of this article. I am particularly grateful to Professor Julian Le Grand of the London School of Economics for the difficult task of criticising my article in a helpful and constructive fashion
† Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, Division of Social Sciences, University of Hertfordshire