There is no agreed definition of the concept of welfare state. According to T. H. Marshall, a ‘welfare state’ is a ‘tougher proposition’ because it would be difficult to find any definition acceptable both to its friends and to its enemies or even to all its friends.
T. W. Kent gives a general definition : “a state that provides for its citizens a wide range of social services.” According to guild socialist GDH Cole, “the welfare state is a society in which an assured minimum standard of living and opportunity becomes the possession of every citizen.”
Hobman describes “the welfare state as a compromise between communism on the one side and unbridled individualism on the other. It guarantees a minimum standard of subsistence without removing incentives to private enterprise.
Yet it does not pretend to establish economic equality.” All are assured of adequate help and support by the state in case of need.
The objectives of a welfare state are:
(1) The evil effects of a free capitalist order are checked by state regulation to provide ‘minimum’ basic needs of the common man.
(2) The common man should be protected against both ‘natural’ and ‘social contingencies’
(3) The maintenance of some fair standard of living should be ensured to all without distinction. To realize these objectives, conscious, deliberate and planned effort by the state is emphasized.
The welfare state is duty-bound to provide social security to people; it should provide them with health care, food, shelter and other basic needs of life. It should ensure equitable distribution of wealth and income among people irrespective of race, caste, creed etc. In a sense, it is a ‘service state.’