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The Historical Context: Pro and Contra Welfare State Arguments

Changes in the welfare legislation and practices now mirror fundamental changes in our understandings of the welfare state, of which there are now paradigmatic differences. In order to reflect the current situation, especially the issue of welfare fraud as discussed in this chapter, it is useful to introduce the conceptualizations represented after World War II.

'Pro' Welfare State

The welfare state is a concept that provoked heated debates ever since its inception. Daly (2011) makes a distinction between welfare and the welfare state, saying that the former term has a broader meaning, and the welfare state has no monopoly over welfare. The term is not as widely used now as it was in the 1970s or the 1980s. Daly goes on to suggest that, 'Among its many popular references now are material sufficiency, well-being, the absence of negative conditions, physical and mental health, satisfaction of desires, and provision for need within the context of organized services for needy and population more broadly'. The term has acquired pejorative connotations, especially in the US where it is associated with dependency on social benefits (Dean 2006, in Daly 2011, 13).

The US has a long tradition of labelling social assistance recipients and making moral judgments about them. The liberal belief that everyone should ensure the source of their livelihood on their own has been advocated by the opponents of the welfare state ever since the concept emerged. This constitutes an important difference between the US and Europe, where most countries developed some form of welfare state. Europe is a plural space with variations in its social

Poverty%20and%20Income%20Distribution/2011%20-%20Tackling%20Social%20 WelfareFraud%20-%20Oireachtas%20Research%20Unit.pdf. policy; terms such as the European welfare model, European social policy and the like are generalizations that disregard the minimal common characteristics shared by the countries in this region. There are several welfare states in Europe (e.g. Esping-Andersen 1990).

In Europe, the attitude towards poverty essentially changed after World War II. It began to be perceived as a structural feature of the free market, and according to that, the previous poor laws became unsustainable in democratic countries. The cause of poverty was no longer sought in the personal characteristics of poor people but was defined as a structural problem and the responsibility was attributed to the state rather than an individual. As a consequence, the states were obliged to intervene to reduce poverty and hence undertake responsibility. According to Briggs7 (2006, 16), the welfare state is an organized use of state power to intervene into the operation of the market with at least three goals in mind: 1) to ensure for individuals and families at least a minimum income regardless of the market value of their work or property; 2) to ensure the exercising of certain social rights in case of sickness or disability and in old age, and thus reduce risks and prevent family or individual crisis; 3) to ensure for all people, regardless of their social status or class, the best possible standard of living in relation to a certain agreed range of social services. The third goal represented a shift away from the previous systems of social protection, because rather than a minimum it ensured an optimum and focused not only on the reduction of class differences but on greater equality as well. Rather than undermining the rule of the market, the welfare state focuses on the inequalities produced by it.

The welfare state has been based primarily on the ideas of equality, social justice and solidarity, notwithstanding the fact that, as the historical development clearly shows, it has been an invention of capitalism, albeit one strongly influenced by the leftist movements and political elites. Its intention was not only to modify capitalism, but to gradually create a society based on equality and solidarity (Page 2007, 27). The first steps towards this goal were the regulation of the economy and the introduction of progressive taxation and welfare state. Sweden and other Scandinavian countries followed suit reinforcing the alliance between the middle class, on the one hand, and the working class and farmers, on the other, which led to the policy of equalization and social protection (Rus 1990, 94). Public programmes comprised housing policy, health care, social assistance, education and childcare. This was important because it enabled a greater inclusion of women in paid work among other things, although the post-war parties did not pay special attention to gender inequalities.

Although social policies in Europe differ from country to country, they all involve an intervention of the state into the market. The development of social rights and insurance systems led governments to respond to workers' demands using the principle of the so-called lesser evil, that is, it is better to give citizens some rights than to lose power (Gough 1979, 11). The main difference between

7 Briggs's article was first published in 1961 in the European Journal of Sociology. Europe and the US lies in the role of the state in assuring the rights and in the manner in which it undertakes responsibility for citizens' welfare. The European countries provided the social rights by attaching them to citizenship. In this way these rights were made universal, which enabled people to live off their income regardless of the value of their work on the market. Titmuss (1968) writes that universal rights ensure that the users of services never need to experience the loss of status, dignity or self-respect. No user of public services should ever experience humiliation, stigmatization or pauperism or be considered a social burden. The universality of social rights means that all people can use public services to the same extent. This accessibility reduces the possibility of stigmatization.

As Marshall says (2006, 37), social equality nevertheless has its limitations. Cash benefits that are subject to income limits and given to those who meet the criteria (means testing) have an equalizing effect because they ensure subsistence. But the problem arises when benefits are related to class discrimination in the way that a group of beneficiaries is attributed negative traits, so they become subject to resocialization by the state. Accordingly, what is important is that the principle of equality is observed both in the distribution of cash benefits and within areas such as health, education, employment status, and age. In Marshall's definition, social justice consists of the elimination of inequality that is unjust and is a result of the historically conditioned structural traits of capitalism. In line with this definition, Marshall suggests, the redistribution of wealth through taxes is the proper way to ensure justice.

 
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