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Public Policy in the UK

Poverty was described as the economic state of all the people without income from property or profession and therefore dependent on their manual labor for a living (Cowherd. 1977. pp.1-2). These poor were distributed across the land and were not clustered together and therefore could not be organized. The problems arose from rapid urbanization and clustering of demographic units around major industrial centers after the industrial revolution. This increased the visibility of the poor and their destitution, so poignantly documented in Dickensonian literary genre, on one hand, and led to coalescing of poor into the extra-state organization like trade unions etc. on the other hand. Repression of organized poor during ‘the period between the French Revolution and the later 1820s should be of severe repression as reflected in Combination Acts and the use of Military Force to quell Luddites in 1812’ (Daunton. 1995). However this repressive regime was seen to be counterproductive and it can be seen that ‘from the mid-1830s to 1850s the repression eased out and major advances for working-class organizations such as trade unions, cooperative societies and friendly societies’ emerged (Crafts.1997). This trend shows that Public Policy response had tacitly admitted the political legitimacy of the organized poor. This admission also meant that an appropriate response was to be given at the state level to demands of organized poor. This point on the historical space-time continuum can be termed as the beginning of welfare policy in the UK. Another dimension of change in the perception of policy makers relates to the impact of Laissez-fare economic policy. ‘By 1830s income and real wages increased and civil rights improved markedly but there was a perceptible decline in mortality conditions and heights, indicating a decline in living conditions of the poor’ (ibid). This presented a new policy paradox to the decision makers. The existing belief about the correlation between income increase and the general state of living was not materializing. The state needed to review its bystander status according to Laissez-fare non-intervention principles. The side-effects of Capitalism were becoming starkly observable.