Definitions

assistance

welfare state

Concept of government in which the state plays a key role in protecting and promoting the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those who lack the minimal provisions for a good life. The term may be applied to a variety of forms of economic and social organization. A basic feature of the welfare state is social insurance, intended to provide benefits during periods of greatest need (e.g., old age, illness, unemployment). The welfare state also usually includes public provision of education, health services, and housing. Such provisions are less extensive in the U.S. than in many European countries, where comprehensive health coverage and state-subsidized university-level education have been common. In countries with centrally planned economies, the welfare state also covers employment and administration of consumer prices. Most nations have instituted at least some of the measures associated with the welfare state; Britain adopted comprehensive social insurance in 1948, and in the U.S., social-legislation programs such as the New Deal and the Fair Deal were based on welfare-state principles. Scandinavian countries provide state aid for the individual in almost all phases of life.

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Branch of economics established in the 20th century that seeks to evaluate economic policies in terms of their effects on the community's well-being. Early theorists defined welfare as the sum of the satisfactions accruing to an individual through an economic system. Believing it was possible to compare the well-being of two or more individuals, they argued that a poor person would derive more satisfaction from an increase in income than would a rich person. Later writers argued that making such comparisons with any precision was impossible. A new and more limited criterion was later developed: one economic situation was deemed superior to another if at least one person had been made better off without anyone else being made worse off. Seealso consumer's surplus; Vilfredo Pareto.

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or social welfare

Any of a variety of governmental programs that provide assistance to those in need. Programs include pensions, disability and unemployment insurance, family allowances, survivor benefits, and national health insurance. The earliest modern welfare laws were enacted in Germany in the 1880s (see social insurance), and by the 1920s and '30s most Western countries had adopted similar programs. Most industrialized countries require firms to insure workers for disability (see workers' compensation) so that they have income if they are injured, whether temporarily or permanently. For disability from illness unrelated to occupational injury, most industrial states pay a short-term benefit followed by a long-term pension. Many countries pay a family allowance to reduce the poverty of large families or to increase the birth rate. Survivor benefits, provided for widows below pension age who are left with a dependent child, vary considerably among nations and generally cease if the woman remarries. Among the world's wealthy countries, only the U.S. fails to provide national health insurance other than for the aged and the poor (see Medicare and Medicaid).

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General search warrant used by the British in the American colonies. The warrants authorized customhouse officers, with the assistance of a sheriff, to search any house or ship for smuggled goods, without requiring them to specify the place or the goods. The legality of the writs was challenged by the colonists in the 1760s, and they became a major grievance in the years leading up to the American Revolution. Seealso James Otis.

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or Comecon

Organization founded in 1949 to facilitate and coordinate the economic development of Soviet-bloc countries. Its original members were the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania; other members joined later, including Albania (1949) and the German Democratic Republic (1950). Its accomplishments included the organization of Eastern Europe's railroad grid, the creation of the International Bank for Economic Cooperation, and the construction of the “Friendship” oil pipeline. After the political upheavals in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, it largely lost its purpose and power. In 1991 it was renamed the Organization for International Economic Cooperation.

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