The Small Welfare State
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The Small Welfare State

Rethinking Welfare in the US, Japan, and South Korea

Edited by Jae-jin Yang

In a period of rapid change for welfare states around the world, this insightful book offers a comparative study of three historically small welfare states: the US, Japan, and South Korea. Featuring contributions from international distinguished scholars, this book looks beyond the larger European welfare states to unpack the many common political and institutional characteristics that have constrained welfare state development in industrialized democracies.
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Chapter 3: The business offensive and the limits of employer-provided welfare in the United States

Jennifer Klein


In order to understand American health care and social security politics, this chapter looks at political economy—the relationships between business, labor, and the state—from the formative years in the 1930s. The United States developed a private, job-based health insurance system in the political struggle of a particular historical moment. It emerged from the political offensive of American business after the Second World War and the attempt to appropriate the meaning of security and shift its emphasis away from the state to private, individual economic relationships. Once outflanked, liberals and unions accommodated the new system of employer-provided benefits, even adopting management’s slogan of “free collective bargaining.” Where private issues were merged into public ones in Europe’s social democracies, public issues were blurred into the private realm in the US, turning questions of social distribution into private managerial issues, insulated from public oversight, public discussion, and political challenge.

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