The Prime Minister David Cameron has this week called for a radical shake up in the welfare state. This wasn't just a speech about benefits rates, or dole scroungers - the PM was going back to fundamental principles - what is social security for and who should it serve? To William Beveridge it was about eradicating evil - the "giant evils" of squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. To David Cameron it is about encouraging citizens to do the right thing - to work, to save, to take personal responsibility. The speech and the row it is causing, exposes a profoundly moral divide. Should social benefit payments be the mechanism by which the state seeks greater social justice, or should they be a mechanism by which the state seeks to promote individual morals? On the one hand you have those who argue that it is the moral duty of those in society who are better off to help those less fortunate. The best mechanism to do that is through the state and the tax and benefit system - everyone contributes, everyone is entitled and social solidarity is the result. To others that creates a system that rewards the feckless and punishes the prudent. Or as high Tory thinker TE Utley more elegantly put it "an arrangement under which we all largely cease to be responsible for our own behaviour and in return become responsible for everyone else's." This battle between the "strivers" and the "skivers" has dogged arguments about the welfare state since the Poor Laws. Now the issue of inter-generational justice has complicated the rhetoric as it appears benefits paid to those under 25 could be scrapped first, while universal benefits to well off pensioners will be protected. So the Moral Maze this week is, what is the welfare state for and who should it help?

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Clifford Longley, Kenan Malik, Michael Portillo and Melanie Phillips.

Owen Jones - Author of 'Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class'

Romin Sutherland - Manager of The Next Door Project, an advocacy group set up to help people affected by changes to housing benefit in London, part of the charity Zacchaeus 2000.

James Bartholomew - Author, 'The Welfare State We're In'

Neil O'Brien - Director, The Policy Exchange.

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43 minutes

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Wed 27 Jun 2012 20:00

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