The welfare state denotes the wide array of social welfare services provided by modern governments. It can be differentiated from socialism or Marxism in that the means of production are not owned by the state. Rather, the state undertakes—through a variety of tax and spending initiatives—to redistribute wealth and shield citizens from many of the normal risks of life.

As a designation of a particular type of polity, welfare state appears to have first been used by William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, who argued in his 1942 book Christianity and Social Order that it was the Christian duty of modern states like Britain to provide all citizens with a minimum standard of living. Temple contrasted his vision of the beneficent welfare state with the evils of ...

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