Welfare state

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The Welfare State is typically associated with rich nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and many more. This is not to be confused with Socialism.

The welfare state is the package of benefits that the unemployed, sick or indigent population receive for free from the national government. These benefits typically include various forms of National Health Care, wherein health care, hospital treatment and medications are provided free of charge by the State; unemployment benefits that a basic income for the unemployed, and other benefits.


The welfare state was originally designed by European traditionalists, such as Otto von Bismark in Germany and Winston Churchill in Britain, to head off State Capitalist proposals to regulate and tax industry.

New Deal

The welfare programs in the U.S. are distinctly smaller and less costly than in Europe. They were first set up by the New Deal in the 1930s, especially Social Security and Unemployment insurance. Medicare and Medicaid were added in 1965. Republican President George W. Bush added a major drug benefit in 2002.


The major U.S. welfare reduction came in 1996, when President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (the leading conservative of the era), formed a coalition to pass the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. It ended the generous benefits to welfare mothers and require them to take jobs. The change enacted were implemented and reauthorized during the Bush administration. They involved the move away from cash assistance and toward social services or work activity assistance.[1]

The reductions of 1996 ended the AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and radically changed the US welfare system. Tighter restrictions were placed on the eligibility and manner of receiving public aid in order to discourage families (mainly single, divorced, or widowed mothers with children)[2] from remaining idle (outside of the work force). For instance, recipients are required to find employment within two years of receiving aid, and a single family could receive aid for a total of five years. If a mother gives birth to a child while on public assistance, states are allowed to establish "family caps" in order to deny further benefits the family may have been eligible for before the reform[3]. Legal immigrants have also been made ineligible for any Social Security Income (SSI)[4][5].

The concept of "charitable choice" was part of the comprehensive law of 1996 which advocates called “welfare reform.” Its goal is the inclusion of religious organizations ("faith-based-organizations") into the public welfare system. The new role of religious organizations as social service providers – which is in line with the fundamentally charitable nature of faith – goes along with a shift in ideas of social inequality and deviant behavior in terms of having not only structural and economic but also behavioral and moral reasons for faith-based organizations to handle welfare.[6]

The leading conservative opponent in the U.S. is Charles Murray.

External links

Further reading

  • Murray, Charles. In Our Hands : A Plan To Replace The Welfare State (2006) excerpt and text search
  • Trattner, Walter I. From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America (6th ed. 1998), standard scholarly history excerpt and text search


  1. Scott W. Allard, "The Changing Face of Welfare During the Bush Administration," Publius: the Journal of Federalism 2007 37(3): 304-332 in EBSCO
  2. [1]
  3. Washington Post [2]
  4. Cornell University Law School
  5. [3]
  6. Alexander-Kenneth Nagel, "Charitable Choice: the Religious Component of the US-welfare-reform - Theoretical and Methodological Reflections on "Faith-based-organizations" as Social Service Agencies," Numen: International Review for the History of Religions 2006 53(1): 78-111,