Philosophical Viewpoints on Social Welfare Policies

PART 1: Philosophical Viewpoints on Social Welfare Policies

The process of policy making in the United States of America is an inherently a complex one. The power of policy making is shared between the congress and the executive. American policy making does not result from the edicts of one single branch of the government but it is a product of interaction among branches. The weak divisions among the judicial, legislative and executive functions in the United States of America have eroded the rise of modern American administrative state.   This has resulted in the notion that American policy making does not feature various branches of government but features a bramble of overlapping policy making forums.  Policy making in the United States of America is considered as an interbranch dialogue. This is shaped by political, institutional and strategic contexts.  Policy making is a negotiated process. There is several policy arenas involved in the science of policy making (Farmer, 2005).

Social welfare policies in the United States of America were influenced by economic crises, political preferences and wars. In the stream of welfare policies in America, Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act and Personal Responsibility set the course for the social welfare programs by establishing various welfare programs. This involved using federal grants with the objective of promoting self-sufficiency among vulnerable members of the society.  This has however been viewed from different angles by different ideological groupings notably conservatives and liberals.

The fear for a strong central government was informed by the fact that such government might impose restrictions on slave trade and curtail the expansion of slavery. The framers of the constitution were serious minded men who advocated for a strong central government but with separation of powers and strong checks and balance.    The fear for a strong central government was informed by their previous experience with Britain; the states did not want to cede more power to the central government. They feared that a strong central would have more control over states and people.

In the United States of America, liberal and conservatism continuum is the most meaningful and logical position to take.  It is made practical in the definition of most political and ideological issues; it determines the context of a policy. Since the signing of the declaration of independence, liberalism and conservatism is considered as the primary axis of ideological and policy conflict in America (Maddox & Lillie, 1984).  Policymaking in Britain and America is similar since it involves various branches of the government and it is a process of coordination between these branches.

With regards to social welfare policies, conservatives generally oppose government intervention since they consider it as a waste of tax payer’s money. Social welfare policies are viewed as providing benefits to people who do not require them or it creates a dependency for people by encouraging them to stop caring for themselves. Liberalists on the other hand are actively in support of government intervention. They consider social welfare policies as important and which should be legislated by the government. They argue that welfare policies should not be left to operate freely without controls. Liberal and conservative views are considered contradictory and exclusionary but more often competing.



Farmer, B. R. (2005). American conservatism: History, theory and practice. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Maddox, W., & Lilie, S. (1984). Beyond Liberal and Conservative: Reassessing the Political Spectrum. Lanham: Cato Institute.

Segal, E. A. (2010). Social welfare policy and social programs: A values perspective. Australia: Thomson Brooks/Cole.