The cost of, and time spent in, arguments on the question of which services society should guarantee its members and which are the province of the individual, have resulted in the provision of social services being sacrificed in many countries. The debate includes questions of society's intent in providing services, which social levels most effectively administer which services, and the differences in cultural preferences. While this debate continues, social services are fragmented and inconsistent.
In the public sector, quality is part of the weaponry used on both sides of the political battle over the future of the welfare state. For the Right, the new-found concern for quality has been part of moves to restructure welfare services along quasi-commercial lines and is closely connected with the idea of "value for money". For the Left, it appears to occupy a significant new position between traditional goals. For while the Left still wants to achieve greater social and economic equality, it is now keen to distance itself from the idea that equality means uniformity; it wants a more pluralistic and responsive system, in which individuals have greater liberty to determine how their needs are met.