What is the definition of the Welfare State?

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The concept of ‘welfare state’ came into the vocabulary of politics after the Second World War or to be precise, in the 1945 programme of the British Labour Party. Soon, however, it became a catchword, a symbol of the desired role of the state in all types of countries.

Modern liberalism looks upon the state as a welfare or social service agency. Individualistic and socialistic theories rather present extreme views regarding the proper sphere of state action. Most modern states avoid both the extremes and strike a middle course between individualism and socialism by adhering to the doctrine of welfare state.

Origin and Development

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The welfare state is a product of the excesses of industrial capitalism. The state undertook legislative measures to remove the evils of industrialization and urbanization. The efforts marked the evolution of the idea of welfare state in the West.

The welfare state ideal took strong root in England. The Beverage Report on Social Insurance issued in 1942 in England prescribed the provision of ‘national minimum’ to every individual. It attacked five giant evils such as want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

A vast social insurance operated in England. A scheme of social security was envisaged as a part of the general programme of social policy.

In the USA, President F.D. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ programme to combat the ‘great depression’ of the early thirties contributed greatly to the concept of welfare state. The federal government launched for the first time under the Social Security Act of 1936 an ambitious plan for providing elaborate social security measures.

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In Europe, countries like Sweden, Norway and Denmark have extensive welfare schemes supported by high taxation. Some socialist states are also welfare states.

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