Welfare and the Welfare State

“We have to ask: what do we mean by the welfare state? If we are defining the welfare state in terms of its institutions, then the welfare state is often defined as consisting, at least in large part, of two kinds of programs. First, there are social insurance programs, such as government financed and administered retirement pensions, health insurance, and unemployment insurance—universal or near universal programs that are awarded regardless of the recipients’ income or wealth.[1] Second, there is state aid to the poor or less affluent, which of course is means tested and not universal. More importantly, most of the welfare state is not devoted to state aid to the poor but to social insurance programs. The budgets of virtually all welfare states are dominated by spending on retirement and health care, which is far greater than spending on means or income tested programs. In this regard, the phrase “the welfare state” may be a misnomer, since most of welfare state programs are not about welfare in the sense of redistribution from the more affluent to the less affluent. We are stuck with the term, but I suspect the use of it is making the debate about libertarianism and the welfare state less clear that it could be….”

Via What is “the welfare state?” Thoughts on Matt Zwolinski’s recent post @ Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

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