GOVERNMENTAL PUBLIC support programs are as old as the Babylonian Empire—when Hammurabi made protection of widows and orphans part of his celebrated code. In 1601, Queen Elizabeth I attempted to identify and assist England's needy. However, the first government-supported welfare program in modern times came in Germany in 1883 with legislation that introduced accident insurance for workers. The idea spread to surrounding countries, and soon laws required health insurance as well as retirement pensions. By the 1930s, state-supported welfare programs in some form existed in most of the world, spurred by socialist theory and the increasing power of labor unions.

Simultaneously with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, influential capitalists had opposed such concepts, saying government assistance violates the concepts of laissez-faire economics—or state nonintervention—and that ...

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