From the early 1990s, UK bishops and their agencies have generally been perceived as endorsing a “Brownite” agenda on economic and social policy. “Solidarity” has often been taken to mean support for income transfers to the poor and for centralised, state-controlled, education models.
These approaches have failed to promote equality and solidarity and are not in accordance with the best traditions of Catholic social teaching. This message comes not only from those who believe in free markets and voluntary association as the best basis for prosperity and wellbeing - distributists and thoughtful contributors to the debate from the left are also arguing for new approaches. In doing so, they echo concerns of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II about welfare dependency.
This year, the state will spend over 50% of national income: in other words, the state will spend more than the citizen. Government non-defence expenditure has grown – almost without pause - yet poverty is more entrenched than ever amongst some groups. When is the old bureaucratic model of solving poverty with income transfers going to work? When the state spends 52% or 54% of national income? Perhaps, more realistically, it is doomed to fail.
In the field of education, the penny seems to be dropping. At the next