What are the main Compulsory and Optional functions of the Welfare State ?


The main Compulsory and Optional functions of the Welfare State are:

Compulsory Functions

The compulsory functions include maintenance of law and order within the State. This is done not only by maintaining a police force but also by instituting a set of courts to administer justice. Compulsory functions are the following:

1) Protection of life and property:

The first and the most important duty of the State are to protect the life and property of its people. Some writers are of the opinion that the State came into existence for this very purpose. The State makes laws regarding life and property. It checks others from interfering into the affairs of the individual. If any individual violates the law of the State, he is punished. The State regulates social life of the individual through laws.

2) Maintenance of peace and order:

Every government should aim at securing peace and order within the country. There are be no progress of any kind unless there is peace and order in the country. It is, therefore, as much the duty of the government to make adequate arrangements for the maintenance of peace and order as it is duty of citizens to co­operate with the government in such a work.

3) Protection form external invasion or defense:

External security means security from external danger either of a military invasion or of encroachment upon international rights. The State should, therefore, be in a fit condition to defend itself against foreign attacks. For this purpose, it maintains a standing army, a navy and to fight in defense of the State. In times of peace too, the State has to deal with foreign powers and looks after its international interest. It also maintains diplomatic relations with other countries.

4) Dispensing justice:

It is an important function of the State that it should organize an independent and powerful judiciary. In the absence of an independent judiciary, people cannot have justice. The State must maintain civil and criminal courts to administer justice. No liberty is possible without rule of law. Those who violate law should be punished. The State should regulate the conduct and activities of individual in the interests of all.

These are the most essential functions of the State. These essential functions are called the protective or police functions. The State also performs a large number of optional functions. As T.H. Green writes that “the business of the State is not merely the business of police man of arresting wrongdoers or of ruthlessly enforcing contracts but for providing for men an equal chance as far as possible of releasing what is best in their intellectual or moral natures.” The State continues for sake of providing “good life” and hence arises its large variety of optional functions.

Optional Functions

As the words indicate, these functions may or may not be performed by the State. However, most of the modern State try to perform these functions. These optional functions are performed by the modern States as per their ability and convenience. These are known as non-essentials functions. Some of these functions are given below.

1) Physical welfare:

Physical welfare of citizens is considered as an optional function of modern State. It is achieved by providing medical facilities, sanitation and conservancy system. Most of the modern States perform these functions. Public health and hygiene of the people are important in every State.

2) Education:

Education is the linchpin of social progress. Spread of education is necessary in a State. Intellectual development of citizens is made through education. These include provision for schools, colleges, universities, etc. Thus, educational opportunities are provided to the citizens by most of the modern States.

3) Regulation of trade, industries and development of agriculture:

Most of the modem States do not leave the economic activities with individuals alone. Certain States may go ahead and nationalize the factories and other means of production. Some other States may only regulate the price, production, import, export and other things relating to the system of production, while allowing private individuals to own and operate the means of production. Certain other States like India may follow what is. called “mixed economy”. In such a system, private as well as State-owned factories and other means of production function side by side. The State may provide various facilities like irrigation, suitable land tenure, co-operative farming, etc. for development of agriculture.

4) Social security functions:

These activities of modern States include provision for old age pension, maintenance of orphans, provision for employment, insurance for worker, sick and disability allowance, relief, rehabilitation of distressed people, etc.

5) Management of the public utilities:

Most of the modern States also own and operate the public utility services such as transport, electricity, water works, postal services, air services etc. It is neither possible nor desirable to leave public utility services at the mercy of profit-seeking private individuals who are likely to misuse them to the detriment of public interests.

6) Development of natural resources:

The State should develop its natural resources fully in order to promote the economic lot of the people. It should exploit those resources in order to increase national income. The State should protect forests, save environment, promote fisheries and should protect wild life. It should utilize mineral wealth and should make maximum use of sea, rivers “rivulets, mountains and other resources. The States should help in the economic improvement of the people.

7) Regulation of import and export:

No State is self-sufficient today. It has to import certain goods from other countries and export certain goods to other countries. The State is to frame laws relating to import and export policies. The people cannot be given complete freedom to import and export goods. Those goods should be imported from other countries, which are essential, and those goods should be exported to other countries, which are surplus. If the State does not regulate import export, the people’s plight will be quite miserable and there will be imbalance of trade.

8) Social and economic security:

The State is morally bound to remove poverty and unemployment. It should, therefore, provide protection against old age. Unemployment, etc. It can be done by introducing insurance schemes against accident, old age etc.


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