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The Machinery of GovernmentPublic Administration and the Liberal State$
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Joseph Heath

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197509616

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197509616.001.0001

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Efficiency and the Rise of the Welfare State

Efficiency and the Rise of the Welfare State

Chapter:
(p.149) 4 Efficiency and the Rise of the Welfare State
Source:
The Machinery of Government
Author(s):

Joseph Heath

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780197509616.003.0004

Even among supporters of the welfare state there are several different theoretical reconstructions of the normative commitments that are taken to underlie it, all of which are in tension with one another. The three normative purposes most commonly cited are equality, community, and efficiency. These give rise to a corresponding set of models, which I refer to as the egalitarian, communitarian, and public-economic models of the welfare state. The objective of this chapter is to show that the public-economic model of the welfare state, though the least popular among political philosophers, is actually the most plausible. Not only does it provide a superior account of the existing configuration of welfare-state activities, but it alone is able to explain why, in all Western democracies, state spending rose almost continuously over the course of the 20th century.

Keywords:   welfare state, public goods, redistribution, efficiency, Wagner’s law

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