The origin and development of the Welfare State
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.
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
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
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'.