The State occupies the most important place among all social institutions. It is 'the keystone of the social arch', as Laski says. In the words of Finer' the state is the supreme social frame work. Without state there would be chaos and confusion in the society. It is not only a natural but also a necessary institution. It exists to control and regulate the behaviour of the human beings. It protects the weak against the strong, maintains peace and order and serves the common good life of all individuals. Man cannot live without the state.
This lesson is about the evolution of the state. The state is the result of a slow and steady growth extending over a long period and has many stages in its development.
Different factors produced different types of states in different societies. It is difficult to show the stages of evolution which the modern nation state had to undergo during its emergence.
The process of the evolution of the state has not been uniform. In the early period there were the Oriental empire, Greek city-state, the Roman Empire, the Feudal state, the Nation state, socialist state and welfare state. The following typologies of state are described below: (1) City State, (2) Feudal State, (3) Nation-State, (4) Socialist State and (5) Welfare State.
The term 'the welfare state' is so much in vogue in present-day India. The idea of a welfare state is deeply embedded in the Indian Constitution in the part dealing with the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Article 98 says: 'The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic, and political, 'shall inform, all the institutions of the national life'. Article 39 speaks of (a) adequate means of livelihood; (b) distribution of natural resources so as best to subserve the common good; (c) opposition to the concentration of wealth; (d) equal pay for equal work for both men and women; (e) conservation of health and strength of workers-especially of women and children; and (f) the non-exploitation of children. Article 41 speaks of the State securing the right to work to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement.
The articles following feelingly refer to provision for just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief; a living wage for workers; provision for free and compulsory education until the children are fourteen years old; promotion of the educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker section; and the duty of State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and the duty to improve public health. These are to be implemented by the government in the interest of welfare of the population. Courts cannot entertain cases for their non-implementations as per Article 37 of the Constitution.
While every State today would like to call itself a welfare state almost up to the end of the nineteenth century most states contented themselves with being 'police' State. Their primary business was merely to provide law and order. The promotion of welfare was left to individuals and groups of individuals. Among political thinkers in our day, Laski more than anyone else was the first to turn the attention of the world from the police state idea to the welfare state idea.
The welfare state ideal took strong root in England. Its development, however, was different from the development in Germany. In England Trade Unions, ably supported by Fabian and other types of socialists, played an important part in developing the ideal.
The National Health Service whose foundations were laid by earlier governments received its final shape during the Prime Ministership of Attlee. Besides a series of measures were passed resulting in the nationalisation of railways, coalmines and- steel; nationalisation of the Bank of England, and nationalisation of transport. When the Conservatives came in power the only measure on which they have gone back is the nationalisation of steel. The rest of the programme has come to stay.
A vast social insurance scheme is in operation today in Britian. According to it, all persons of working age contribute to it except housewives. Provision, is made for old age retirement benefits, widow's benefits, unemployment benefits, family allowances for families with two or more children, milk for school children, milk and special food for expectant and nursing mothers, free medical service free secondary education and liberal scholarships for higher education.
This vast programme has been made possible by steep graduated, taxes, by the high degree of self-discipline practised by the people', and by their conscientiousness in the payment of taxes. Surprisingly enough, national production has increased in spite of high taxes. There is a high level of economic satisfaction in the country.
In U.S.A. we find that on account of the strong individualistic tendencies of that country the term 'welfare state' is anathema to a great many. However there are several welfare schemes in operation in the broad sense of the term. They are the Tennessee Valley Authority, elaborate social security schemes, public works and excellent roads, price support for agricultural products, free education up to the college stage and state and federal aid to education. The Social Security Scheme is so very comprehensive as to include even white-collar workers University teachers, and self-employed persons.
Among the continental countries, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark has extensive welfare schemes supported by high taxation. In some of the welfare states of Europe the inequality between the highest and lowest incomes is less than ten times.
The socialist states also are welfare states; but here welfare is planned and executed from above. More attention is paid to material welfare than to moral and spiritual welfare. Russia has been the first modern country to have a planned economy. Her successive Five Year Plans have been a remarkable success and paid her a good dividend during World War II. There is in general a pooling of wealth.
The aspiration of the Indian State has been to provide full employment to all its citizens, free and compulsory education up to 14 years of age, public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, disablement, and even of undeserved want, a decent standard of life, full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities adequate housing, and health facilities. In spite of the best efforts of the Government, full employment still remains a dream. Free and compulsory education has made some advance, but is nowhere near the goal. Half-hearted attempts have been made at the limitation of population.
The five giant evils of India which need to be tackled are want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. Time is of the essence in tackling these evils since time waits for no man.
The three Five Year Plans and yearly plans of Plan holiday periods have helped to improve the agricultural and individual conditions of India, but much leeway has yet to be made. In the Fourth Plan still greater stress is laid on all out development. Many spectacular schemes have been started, and some completed, in the harnessing of turbulent rivers for purposes of power and irrigation, in the production of steel and cement, in the manufacture of railway engines, coaches, telegraph and telephone equipment, etc. The emphasis on the public sector has been so great that the private sector complains of a stepmotherly treatment. Nehru at one time said: 'the public sector must grow and dominate'.
From the above description of the welfare state in many sense, we may now proceed to a definition of it. Adopting a rather narrow and restricted view of it, Abraham defines it, as 'a community where state power is deliberately used to modify the normal play of economic forces so as to obtain a more equal distribution of income for every citizen, a basic minimum irrespective of the market value of his work and his property'. It is purely on economic point of view. T. W. Kent attempts a more inclusive definition when he says that a welfare state is 'a state that provides for its citizens a wide range of social services'.
Kent goes on to say that the primary purpose of the state is to give the citizen security, but the welfare state undertakes to help him if he lose his ordinary source of income.
Hobman describes the welfare state as a compromise between communism on the one side and unbridled individualism on the other. As such, Hobman believes that in spite of all its imperfections, the welfare state sets a pattern for any humane and progressive society. To sum up his views some what extensively, the welfare state guarantees a minimum standard of subsistence without removing incentives to private enterprise. It brings about a limited redistribution of income by means of graduated high taxation. Yet it does not pretend to establish economic equality among its citizens. All are assured of adequate help in case of need, whether the need is due to illness, old age, unemployment or any other cause.
The emergence of the concept of the welfare state has added a new dimension to the discussion on the end and functions of the state. The idea of Welfare State is not new to political theory. It is as old as political thought. Ancient western political thinkers like Plato and Aristotle maintained that the purpose of the state was the welfare of the people. Ancient Indian thinkers also stated in their writings that all people must live happily and it was the duty of the king to promote the welfare of the people. But it did not receive much attention in the past. It received greater attention only in the later part of the 19th century. It emerged from Industrial Revolution which created a number of problems such as concentration of wealth in the hands of few individuals, bad working conditions for the workers, growth of towns and slums, spread of epidemics, growing unemployment, rising prices etc. Added to these, the scientific and technological developments increased the problems of the human beings. To solve these problems the state had to take up the responsibility of implementing a number of socio-economic programmes to make human life happy. It had to interfere in all spheres of human life to promote the maximum happiness of the maximum number of people. The result was that it began to pass a number of laws in the later half of the 19th century. 'It was with the passing of Factory Laws that the modern Welfare State was born'
The concept of 'Welfare State' is defined differently by different writers which are listed below.
1. 'The Welfare State is one which provides a wide range of social services and security'. (T.W.Kent)
2. 'Welfare State regards want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness as five great enemies of the people and wants to give them a fight and destroy them'. (Nehru)
3. 'The Welfare State is a society in which an assured minimum standard of living and opportunity becomes the possession of every citizen'. (G.D.H. Cole)
4. 'The Welfare State is a system wherein government agrees to underwrite certain levels of employment, income, education, medical aid, social security and housing for all its citizens'. (Amartya Sen)
The concept of Welfare State is a compromise between extreme Individualism and Socialism. Individualism gives maximum importance to the individual and degrades the state. Socialism, on the other hand, gives maximum importance to the state and degrades the individual. But Welfare State gives importance to both state and individual. It promotes the general happiness and welfare of the people. It regards itself more as an agency of social service than as an instrument of power. It aims at the attainment of moral progress, development of individual personality and maintenance of certain good conditions of social life.
The following are the basic features of the Welfare State
1. Emphasises the worth of man
Welfare State emphasises the worth and dignity of the individual and helps and assist him to lead a respectable life in the society. It regards all individuals on an equal footing irrespective of their social and economic status.
2. Undertakes progressive measures
Welfare State tries to implement progressive measures like land reforms, agricultural development, price control, public distribution system of essential commodities, provision of health, education, sanitation, communications etc.
3. Undertakes wide-range of Social Services
Welfare State undertakes wide-range of social services for the betterment of its citizens. They include measures like eradication of untouchability, dowry, child marriage, sati, etc. It takes steps to abolish illiteracy, poverty and unemployment. It established schools, hospitals and other institutions to meet the needs of the people. It provides unemployment relief, maternity benefit, old-age and other social benefits.
Welfare State undertakes numerous functions which are divided into
B. Protective and
C. Welfare functions
A. Regulative Functions
These include: (i) maintaining law and order, (ii) promoting peace (iii) curbing anti-social elements and their activities, (iv) putting down
communal, caste and class clashes, (v) checking exploitation of labourers by passing necessary legislation etc.
B. Protective Functions
These include: (i) maintenance of internal order, (ii) protecting territorial integrity, (iii) maintenance of basic institutions, (iv) maintenance of sound net-work of postal system, transport and communication systems (v) regulation of trade, markets, weights and measures, (vi) prevention of theft, decoity and other criminal activities, (vii) conducting foreign relations with other countries, (viii) administering justice and punishing criminals, and (ix) safeguarding the country's territories sovereignty and independence against external attacks and invasions etc.
C. Welfare Functions
These include: (i) eradicating the spread of contagious diseases like malaria, cholera etc. (ii) eradicating illiteracy by establishing educational institutions (iii) reducing the economic inequalities by taking steps for distribution of national income, (iv) providing employment opportunities to all qualified persons (v) improving the working conditions of the workers by fixing hours of work, compensation etc. (vi) creating healthy atmosphere in and outside industries. (vii) providing adequate social services such as unemployment benefits, disability benefits, maternity benefits etc. (vii) introducing jail reforms for speedy disposal of cases and reducing the cost of judicial litigation, (ix) introducing land reforms, (x) encouraging cottage and small-scale industries, (xi) undertaking Community Development Programmes, and (xii) checking social evils etc. In brief Welfare State provides full employment, social security, housing, health and education for all people.
There are a few writers who criticised the idea of Welfare State on the following grounds:
1. Very expensive
Welfare State, is an expensive state and is beyond the reach of poorer nations. Providing a wide range of social services involves a lot of expenditure.
2. Kills individual initiative and freedom
It is said that Welfare State curbs the individual freedom, initiative and self-help. It retards moral development because it makes a man inferior and dependent on charity. It develops in him proper mentality.
3. Undue importance to Bureaucracy
It is also argued that Welfare State gives undue importance to bureaucracy because it is bureaucracy which makes policies and implements them.
4. Leads to inefficiency
It is pointed out that Welfare State undertakes too many functions which in turn results in administrative inefficiency and mismanagement of human and natural resources.
5. Retards the work of Association
Finally, it is said that Welfare State regulates the work of voluntary organisations in the society. They are pushed back and the willingness to undertake social service activities on the part of the associations are undermined.
Most of the criticisms given above, are not correct. In order to make the Welfare State an ideal system, some steps have to be taken. They are: (1) Defining the objectives and laying down the means to achieve them; (2) Avoiding red-tapism (3) Periodic evolution of Welfare Schemes (4) Checking totalitarianism and (5) Encouraging voluntary associations etc.,
If the above measures are adopted the Welfare State may
certainly become heaven of peace because it reconciles individual freedom with the authority of the state, brings about a fair degree of equality of income among all people and recognises the dignity and worth of the human beings.
The ideal of Welfare State, though seen to be good on paper, is very difficult to realise in practice because of many social, political, economic and administrative problems. They are acting as hindrances or obstacles in the way of establishing welfare state. They may be stated as under:
1. Growth of population
The tremendous increase in population is becoming a major problem in the establishment of Welfare State. The little progress that has been achieved has become inept due to over population.
2. Indifferent attitude of the officials
The officials in charge of implementing welfare schemes should have sincerity and dedication to the cause of the welfare of the people. Any different attitude exhibited by the officials will defeat the purpose of the programmes and leads to their failure.
3. Lack of adequate economic resources
The process of carrying out many programmes to promote the welfare of the people involves a lot of expenditure. In a country like India where the population is very large and finances are limited, it is very difficult to achieve the goal of establishing welfare state.
4. Narrow outlook
The selfish and narrow mentality of the people are also the hindrances on the way to welfare state. People should conduct themselves above the considerations of caste, religion and language. They should give top priority to the interests of the nation.
5. Social Evils
Social evils like untouchability, bonded labour, feudal set up etc. affect the welfare programmes of the government.
6. Discipline and Devotion
These two qualities are highly essential for achieving the ideal of welfare state. People should work with discipline and determination in implementing the programmes, extend their cooperation to the government and pay the taxes promptly. Then alone the objective of welfare state will be realised.