This introduction is devoted to the definition of the concepts of a welfare state, social protection, and social insurance, and to the different foundations, both normative and positive, underlying them. These foundations range from pure individualistic motivations to the Kantian norm, to pure altruism. This introduction discusses also the traditional trade-off between equity and efficiency that is the main concern when designing social programs. It also presents the issues to be covered throughout the fifteen chapters of the book. Finally, it concludes with what can be viewed as the main challenge of European welfare states, namely the mounting socio-economic divide.
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