Modern democracies are insurance companies with an army. Why did all modern democracies develop far-reaching social insurance systems that cover most citizens from the main adversities of modern life? This essay sketches a framework to make sense of this puzzling pattern. The framework combines insights from economic models, which focus on information problems, and political models, which focus on social choice problems. The framework is applied to analyzing the transition from voluntary mutual aid societies to mandatory social insurance programs.
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