This book has examined a number of different perspectives on welfare. Each of these perspectives has put forward a distinctive view of what should be the objectives of welfare, and how those objectives could be achieved. These views are in turn grounded in contrasting assumptions about human nature. The writers whose work was examined in previous chapters all began with the premise that, in James Q. Wilson's words, human beings possess 'a set of traits and predispositions that limits what we may do and suggests guides to what we must do' (Wilson 1995: 206). Nevertheless, they have very different views of what these 'traits and predispositions' are, and of the ways in which they constrain and guide welfare policy.
The book has sought to justify its focus upon welfare perspectives on two grounds. First, it has shown how policy debates in Britain and the United States have drawn upon elements of the perspectives that have been outlined, and how the welfare reforms implemented in both countries have been shaped by those debates. Second, it has argued, and I hope has demonstrated, that the debates between these perspectives are of compelling interest to students of welfare and of public policy in general.
The approach that is taken in this concluding chapter is different from that adopted in the rest of the book. Hitherto the emphasis has been upon exposition and explanation. The intention has been to set out the assumptions and arguments of each perspective and to explain why they take the form that they do. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a framework within which the reader can begin to form his or her own judgement about the persuasiveness of the perspectives and the validity of their assumptions. It does this by using quotations from the commentators discussed earlier to illustrate the answers they would give to a series of questions about human nature and about the motivation and capacities of poor people. A flow chart is drawn on the basis of these answers in order to show how the views that