Comprehensive Essay on Welfare State – Background, Meaning and Justification

These efforts of the State gave birth to the idea of the welfare State. In England, trade Unions played an important part in developing the ideal.

The First and Second World Wars gave rise to gigantic social and economic problems whose solutions required the guidance of the State. Rapid industrialization, urbanization and many other social and political problems compelled the State to interfere in the individual activities.

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Thus, after two world wars, many European States introduced welfare measures like social security schemes, sickness, insurance, unemployment insurance, old-age pension, etc. In America, President Roosevelt’s “New Deal Programmes” contributed a lot for the development of the welfare State.

In England, Welfare principles were adopted after the famous Beveridge Report. Provision of “national minimum” to every individual, is the main content of the Report. Among the continental countries Sweden, Norway and Denmark have made much headway in realizing the concept of the welfare State.

The welfare States does not recognise the individualistic theory. According to the individualists the State’s main purpose is to maintain law and order and defend the people against external aggression, leaving the citizens to pursue their well-being in their own way.

Socialism which is an eloquent protest against individualism is not free from criticisms. Here the State owns and manages all means of production. The welfare State combines the merits of both the systems.

Meaning:

The idea of welfare State is of modern origin. It is a product of the 20th century. Functions of the State in the past were determined in accordance, with the laissez-faire principle. The State was only to act as a policeman and it was responsible for maintenance of law and order only.

Directly opposed to it the socialistic theory which advocated maximum functions of the State. Most modern States avoid both the extremes by adhering to the concept of welfare State.

However, with increasing problems of poverty, inequality, economic uncertainty, unemployment, slums, etc. functions of the State were subjected to modifications. The welfare State came into being in order to tackle these problems in society.

One should keep this fact in mind while analysing the characteristics of the welfare State. The distinguishing feature of a welfare State is that its primary objective is welfare of the people. It provides to its citizens free medical aid, financial assistance in case of accidents, unemployment or old age pension, education through school and colleges and a variety of other welfare functions.

However, a welfare State has wider implications. In a wider sense, a welfare State undertakes developmental activities, social welfare, and reduction of economic inequality and attempts to raise the general standards of living besides the provision of economic security. It provides a wider range of social services to the citizens.

It also assures equitable distribution of income for every citizen irrespective of caste, creed, colour or community. It is said that in a welfare State “‘the individual has only to get himself born, the State will be the rest”. Individual welfare is its goal and the State adopts “planning” and various other measures to achieve that goal.

The welfare State differs from a Socialist State and a laissez-faire State on account of its basic features. Hobman has rightly described it as the result of “an orthodox marriage of the 19th century individualism and the 20th century socialism”.

It puts equal emphasis on individual and society. In modern times the best example of the welfare State is India. But the idea of the welfare State is also found in the working of Canada, Australia, and the United States of America.

It is difficult to give an exact definition of the welfare State. G.D.H. Cole defined it as “a society in which as assured minimum standard of living and opportunity becomes the possession of very citizen.” Welfare of the citizens is the be-all and end-all of the State.

T.W. Kent defines the welfare State as a “State that provides for its citizens a wide range of social services.” According to Abraham, “a welfare State is a community where State power is deliberately used to modify the normal play of economic force so as to obtain a more equal distribution of income for every citizen, a basic minimum irrespective of market value of his work and property.”

Welfare state is a state which does not confine itself to the discharging of mere police functions but takes a wider view of its obligations and undertakes all activities which are considered necessary and desirable to remove social evils and promote the welfare of population.”

The welfare state not only regulates the activities of the citizens in all essential aspects but itself makes provision for all essential goods and services in such a manner that the benefits are distributed according to need while the burden is shared according to individual capacity. It stands for the welfare of the citizens. It is otherwise known as a “service State”.

Justification of the Welfare State:

The following are the justified points of the welfare State:

i) The welfare State is a halfway house between individualism and socialism. It strikes a balance between individualism and socialism. It neither regards the State as a necessary evil nor regards it as an all powerful institution. The State is viewed as “a friend, philosopher and guide” of the individuals.

ii) The welfare State adopts “a mixed economy”. It allows both private and public sectors to play their roles in the development of national economy.

iii) It believes in planning. Planning is considered as necessary and inevitable in the welfare State. It constitutes one of the significant dimensions of the welfare State. The State controls and regulates economic system through planning. It undertakes the responsibility of bringing about material welfare of the people.

iv) It guarantees a basic minimum to every individual. It also guarantees social security and provides adequate opportunities for the individuals for development. The State considers it as an obligation to try to provide employment opportunities to ail the able-bodies citizens.

v) The State takes responsibility of providing education an, of looking after the health of its citizens. It takes measure to abolish illiteracy and poverty. It comes forward to establish various charitable institutions. It prevents exploitation of the working class.

vi) It promotes social justice. Used on a wider sense, the tern social justice includes both economic justice and social justice. It has the objective of eliminating all inequalities and giving to all citizens in social and economic affair equal opportunities.

The prevalence of social justice make: democracy significant, purposeful, meaningful ant dynamic. Without social justice, democracy is poor in its content. Hence the concept of the welfare State is linked with the concept of social justice. A welfare State is expected to uphold the principle of social justice.

vii) The welfare State upholds the rights of all men and women and provides equal treatment to all individuals without any discrimination. In fact, it works “within the framework of democratic political institution.”

viii) So far as the nature of the welfare State is concerned Asirvatham observes that “the first important thing to remember is that welfare is not a mater of charity, but of right. Welfare, as understood here, does not carry with it any stigma of pauperism.

Secondly, if welfare is to be genuine welfare, the ground for it, should have beet prepared earlier by the various agencies at work in the State Unless the minds and attitudes of men and women are attuned to the idea of a welfare State, they are apt to look upon welfare as manna from heaven falling into the mouths of an expectant people.

In the third place, if the welfare State is to be a blessing and not a curse, it should not produce a pauper mentality on the part of its recipients. In whatever is done by the State, care should be taken not to dry up the wells of initiative and self-help.”

ix) As most of the modern States are welfare States, functions of the welfare States are the same as those of modern States.

These functions may be classified under two heads, namely (a) protective functions or obligatory functions and (b) developmental functions or protection of life, maintenance of law and order, protection against foreign invasion, etc., the latter includes social security, public health, public welfare, spread of education, etc.

Maclver views that the State not and “an instrument of power” but also “an agency of power”. He describes the functions of the welfare States in three heads viz., protection, conservation and development.

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