First of all, what is a welfare state? There are many different welfare state, each according to individual countries. This post will mostly be referring to the welfare state here in Britain. However te concept of a welfare state is the government distributing money, mostly raised by national insurance contributions in latter times, into areas that will benefit its citizens. For example healthcare, education, old age pensions, which were introduced in 1908. In 1942, during the Second World War, the Beveridge report produced by liberal economist Sir William Beveridge to quote Wikipedia (yes I know, naughty, naughty, how very unacademic of me):
'Proposed a series of measures to aid those who were most in need of help or in poverty and recommended that the government find ways of tackling what it called "the five giants", namely; want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. It urged the government to take steps to provide citizens with adequate income, adequate health care, adequate education,adequate housing and adequate employment, proposing that "All people of working age should pay a weekly National Insurance Contribution. In return, benefits would be paid to people who were sick, unemployed, retired or widowed.'
It is as a result of this that we get free medical treatment through the NHS, which although we often moan about I'm sure the majority of us are extremely grateful for. After the war the government introduced child benefits to help families afford to have children and in turn increase the country's depleated population. Council houses were also a means for couples to be able to afford housing and a place to raise their children.
So far the picture is of a concern to benefit the country's residents, with many acts being passed by the government to restore the country. To look after the sick for free, to provide for widows, to house the population in better and more affordable housing, rebuilding where many bombings had destroyed homes; to provide child benefit to help raise children and to provide them with free education. Whilst workers recieved sick pay, injury insurance and pensions. Things that to us, in this day and age, take for granted and perhaps would not class as benefits.
The welfare state must adjust and adapt with the times, concerning itself with the key issues facing society and deciphering how best to benefit it's residents in the current circumstances. However as we see now, our benefits system seems to be in uproar. With more money needed in the NHS, and the high levels of unemployment.
I believe a common argument regarding today's welfare state is who we all class as being in need of benefits. Well the answer is; all of us. The majority of us rely on the NHS, unless we have private medical insurance; and is that not a benefit? It is funded through the tax system aferall. Haven't most of us been educated for free? Aren't parents, regardless of their circumstances grateful for child benefits to help them navigate the ever increasing financial minefield that is raising children? Will those fortunate enough to reach state pension age be grateful for extra help towards the bills?