Essays in Honor of Keith B. Griffin
Edited by James K. Boyce, Stephen Cullenberg, Prasanta K. Pattanaik and Robert Pollin
Chapter 13: What Will Become of the Welfare State?
13. What will become of the welfare state? Victor D. Lippit Among the various forms of contemporary capitalism, the ‘welfare state’ has become most firmly entrenched in continental Europe. The welfare state is based on a broad social consensus favoring relative equality and the assurance of access to the basic requirements for a decent living standard for the entire population. This implies access to health care and sufficient income to provide decent food, housing and other basic requirements. Retirees are assured of adequate pensions, and those who lose income due to unemployment, disability or the death of the main breadwinner are also eligible for regular payments. In addition, in much of Europe, the welfare state implies access to education and child care, and such benefits as parental leave to care for newborns, young children or sick children. Since the early 1990s, the welfare state has come under increasing challenge. There are a number of reasons for this, ranging from the intensification of internal contradictions within the welfare state itself to demographic changes, medical advances, globalization and technological change. The challenges confronting social democracy or the welfare state threaten to undermine the most humane form of capitalism the world has managed to produce. In addition to the welfare state, the other primary forms are the state-led capitalism of East Asia (for which Japan and South Korea are the primary prototypes, with China beginning to follow a similar path), and the ‘harsh’ capitalism of the AngloAmerican (especially American) variety. Under ‘harsh’ capitalism,...
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