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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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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Any government program designed to encourage the industrial and economic development of regions beset by joblessness or other economic hardship. Most industrialized countries have adopted some type of regional development program since World War II. The most common method of encouraging development is to offer grants, loans, and loan guarantees to companies relocating or expanding in the region. France, for example, has offered subsidies related to the amount of investment and the number of new jobs created, as well as loans, interest subsidies, and free land sites. Tax incentives are also used to encourage companies to invest in depressed areas. In other programs, the government may offer low-cost housing for workers and assistance in developing power, light, transportation, and sanitation facilities. Seealso development bank.
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Set of ordered instructions that enable a computer to carry out a specific task. A program is prepared by first formulating the task and then expressing it in an appropriate programming language. Programmers may work in machine language or in assembly languages. But most applications programmers use one of the high-level languages (such as BASIC or C++) or fourth-generation languages that more closely resemble human communication. Other programs then translate the instructions into machine language for the computer to use. Programs are stored on permanent media (such as a hard disk), and loaded into RAM to be executed by the computer's processor, which executes each instruction in the program, one at a time. Programs are often divided into applications and system programs. Applications perform tasks such as word processing, database functions, or accessing the Internet. System programs control the functioning of the computer itself; an operating system is a very large program that controls the operations of the computer, the transfer of files, and the processing of other programs.
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(1948–51) U.S.-sponsored program to provide economic aid to European countries after World War II. The idea of a European self-help plan financed by the U.S. was proposed by George Marshall in 1947 and was authorized by Congress as the European Recovery Program. It provided almost $13 billion in grants and loans to 17 countries and was a key factor in reviving their economies and stabilizing their political structures. The plan's concept was extended to less-developed countries under the Point Four Program.
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