The welfare state covers a variety of forms of economic and social organization, helping to reduce the income gap between the rich and poor. The welfare state is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, public responsibility and equitable distribution of wealth, for all those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions to lead a good life. The welfare state involves transfer of funds from the state, to the services like healthcare and education, and also directly to individuals called benefits.
T.H. Marshall, distinguished among sociologists, described the modern welfare state as a necessary and desirable combination of welfare, democracy, and capitalism. During the Great Depression, the welfare state was placed between the extremes of communism and unregulated laissez-faire capitalism. In a welfare state government plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social health of its citizens.
Modern welfare states includes Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland which employ a system known as the Nordic model. According to Esping-Andersen the most developed welfare state systems can be classified into three categories; Social Democratic, Conservative, and Liberal. Funded through redistributionist taxation referred to as a type of mixed economy. Such taxation applies a larger income tax for people with higher incomes called progressive taxation. Scott Fitzgerald, chronicler of American social class, famously confided to Ernest Hemingway that "the rich are different from the rest of us." "Yes," was Hemingway’s laconic reply. "They have more money."
During the Second World War, Anglican Archbishop William Temple, author of the book Christianity and the Social Order (1942), popularized the concept using the phrase "welfare state."
Emperor Ashoka of India put forward his idea of a welfare state in the 3rd century BCE. He envisioned his dharma (religion or path) as not just a collection of high-sounding phrases. He consciously tried to adopt it as a matter of state policy; he declared that "all men are my children."
In Switzerland, the Swiss Factory Act of 1877 limited working hours for everyone, and gave maternity benefits. The Swiss welfare state also arose in the late 19th century; its existence and depth varied individually by canton. Grandner, Margarete (1996). "Conservative Social Politics in Austria, 1880–1890."
Sociologist T. H. Marshall described the modern welfare state as a distinctive combination of democracy, welfare, and capitalism. - Marshall, Thomas Humphrey (1950). Citizenship and Social Class: And Other Essays. Cambridge: University Press.
Welfare State characteristics are unique. Some characteristics of welfare state are benefits while, some are not. These benefits are helpful for the development of any nation whereas the demerits of welfare state can hamper its functioning. It is now easier to get a general outline about the characteristics of welfare state by studying the advantages of welfare state, disadvantages of welfare state and also, the welfare state structure.