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Evaluation of the Welfare State

Essay – Imagine yourself in an original state behind a veil of ignorance, you know nothing about the family you were born into. What type of welfare state would you prefer and why?


According to Hemerijck (2013), there are certain nations and states which undertake measures through which the health and wellbeing of the citizens can be protected. Such states called as nation states try to help the citizens who are in financial needs and offer various grants, pensions and benefits to help the citizens. It has also been reiterated by Cantillon and Vandenbroucke (2014) that the foundation of the present day modern state was laid by Beveridge Report of 1942 as published in the UK. Through this report, the sanctions of National health service and national Insurance scheme were defined, and it was seen that a political system which is based on the premise of governments was created. As per the concept of Welfare States, the government is laden with the responsibility of increasing the wellbeing of the citizens, and the responsibility of the same is not solely to the individuals, corporations and local communities.

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Apart from presenting an introduction to the concept of Welfare states this paper also underlines Rawls Theory of Justice in conjunction with the veil of ignorance. It also presents a brief description of Esping Anderson’s three types of the Welfare States, and the manner in which the ignorance of the individuals past helps in determining the choice of the welfare state.

Main Body

As identified through the readings of Kumlin and Stadelmann-Steffen (2014) and Kumlin (2014) the entire proposition of welfare states depends upon the role and participation of the government, in helping the citizens and developing the welfare of the state. While this may be granted in the form of pensions and grants, it is also logical for the governments to initiate the welfare programs through health and other social benefits which can be offered to the individuals. Through such methods and processes, it is seen that the government enables the society to develop sustainability and justice systems which are fair and ethical in nature. There are different benefits which can be obtained from the concept of welfare states where in the common benefits which can be provided to the people are counted as the set of advantages. On the contrary, it has been argued by Koven and Michel (2013) that the same concept also impedes the development process of the people, where in by being habitual of grants and benefits, the citizens may not adopt the routes of development which are required. In his book titled “The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism”, Esping Andersen has been able to outline a typology attributed to the understanding of the welfare states (Esping-Andersen 2013). While this was intended with the proposition of classifying the welfare states based on the capitalism, main characteristics of the welfare states are the specific labour market regimes and post-industrial trajectories which are applied to employments.

The first classification made by Anderson is that of the Liberal States which are liberal and fair in all their systems of grants, helps, benefits and pensions which are offered to the citizens and hence it is seen that such states are not only politically liberal but also allow a large scale social and cultural mix enabling the state to leverage the skills and liberties of the government (Emmenegger et al. 2015). The second classification as per this author refers to the welfare states which are projected towards the welfare of the communities but would not compromise on the manner in which the cultures, societies and political systems are adjudged. Hence such states conserve their existence and hence apply to the welfare of the citizens with respect to the conservative nature of the states. Subsequently, Danforth (2014) ratifies, that the third classification of the states is more relevant to the present-day world owing to the nature of the welfare states which has been defined under the category of the Social Democratic States. Such states are socially uplifting while the democratic nature of the government allows the citizens to choose the governments as per the promises of welfare which are made by such governments. However, at the same time, it has been argued by Kumlin (2014) that while this theory has been published, and the typology remains widely accepted, it is also seen that that the debate upon the nature of the states and the classification presented in this theory is also generated. It was through this Book that Andersen also criticised various models of the welfare states and termed them as inadequate by basing the arguments on the fact that such analysis leads to high welfare state expenditures. It has also been strongly argued by Van Kersbergen and Vis (2015) that while referring to welfare states and their effectiveness, expenditures should not be considered as a viable measure to compare the states and their provisions.

While referring to the examples of the Welfare states, there are different countries which can be explored. For instance, the gulf countries belong to the category of the Conservative Welfare States, and despite the fact that the welfare programmes are well implemented, it is seen that the conservative nature of the societies is not compromised in such countries. On the other hand, certain other countries like Norway, Netherlands, New Zealand and Canada have proven themselves as proponents of Liberalism in welfare states, where as countries such as UK, USA, Germany and France largely follow the Social democratic models of welfare states (Stoy 2014). Based on the theory of Justice as presented by John Rawls, it is seen that the concept of Veil of Ignorance is applied to the political and justice systems of various countries. Being one of the leading philosophers to explain social justice, it was seen that Rawls proposed a social structure which entails the institutions such as the government for the public distribution of the fundamental rights of the people. Rawls also suggested that the ideally the correct principles should be used for managing a society and due to this the citizens would agree to enhance their own interests starting from fair positions. He was also able to propose principles in general which would be applied to this condition and states that the justice system of the welfare states should be ideally based on principles which have been stated (Danforth 2014).

Referring to the veil of ignorance, it is seen that this state of mind refers to the condition when the awareness about the condition, situation or instance is minimal, and ignorance tends to cover the thinking ability and prejudices the individual. This may also refer to a condition where in an individual is not aware of his past, and hence does not know about his social and cultural roots. In such a sceanrio, it is the situations which shape the socio-cultural factors influencing the decision making of the individual. This means that the other psychological factors such as family, bonding, relationships, linkages and emotions do not shadow the ability of thinking of an individual. Solely, on the basis of situations, as expressed by Skyrms (2014) is an individual able to decide the future and no facets of the past are used. In such a situation to select the welfare state based on the social and cultural orientation of the individual is meaningless. Furthermore, since such individuals are not biased towards their own lives and communities, the ability to change the thinking process is also found. Therefore, as argued by Muldoon et al. (2014), such people tend to form and realise urgent needs and requirements from the government. This also means that while an individual may be satisfied from the decisions of the government at one point in time, the same decision when applied after some years may yield a negative impact.

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In the words of Stoy (2014), while selecting a welfare state, it is seen that an individual selects a state based on his individual needs and the manner in which the state would benefit the individual. Thus, there are several factors which determine the same. It is seen in this scenario, that an individual would base the choice of welfare states on the output which can be obtained. Hence for an individual who is not aware of his past, the selection of the welfare state would largely be on present needs and no other social and cultural criteria would be considered. On the other hand, it is also seen that in such cases, the individual should be able to ensure that the choice made is a long-term equation which can be used to develop the sustainability of the individual. Based on the scenario which is described, the social democratic states are the most suitable for the individual owing to the fact that in such states the citizens have the ability to select the governments which means that the citizens have the ability to indirectly select the benefits and welfare schemes which can be applied. This helps the people behind a veil of ignorance to select the states based on their present needs, and therefore a knowledge of the past is not required. In addition to the same, it is also seen that term ‘Veil of Ignorance’ itself remains debatable while referring to the different factors which can be used. Through this term, the unbiased nature of the mind and the ability to make unbiased decisions is represented. It also represents the situation where an individual may not be completely aware of the situations and may focus on present needs and future routes instead of dwelling in the past which has helped in shaping the future of the individual.

A discussion on the benefits of the welfare states on individuals who have no knowledge about their past represents the fact that lack of knowledge about the past increases the manner in which the present can be made beneficial. Welfare states do not consider the past of the individual while offering the benefits and grants which are meant for the people. It is a process which remains free of any biases, and hence the primary benefit attained by the individual is the sustainability and insurance of life and finances offered. On the other hand, it has also been argued by Gerber et al. (2014) that for an individual who has no knowledge of the past, the decisions to be made do not permeate deeper into the subconscious mind thereby leading to lack of satisfaction of such individuals. In such cases, the individual may not actively participate in the governmental decisions. It also leads to the conclusion that while welfare states promote the wellbeing of the individuals, it also leads to the creation of dependence upon the states for the wellbeing and sustainability of the individuals. Hence while the advantages of the same can be identified, as a contrast negative impacts may also be identified.


Beginning with an explanation of the welfare states, this paper also includes the discussion of the Theory of Justice as presented by Rawls. It also links the state of justice in the manner in which the states perceive the communities being cared for. Furthermore, through the discussion on the different types of welfare states, the most suited state for individuals who are not aware of their past, the social democratic states are considered to be the most suitable. Through this discussion, the different aspects of the three typologies of welfare states and examples have also been presented. It also explains the manner in which the welfare states can contribute to the wellbeing of the individuals also pertaining to the sustainability of the economies. However, through this discussion, while the advantages of the intent of the government, while catering to the welfare needs of the people are considered, it is also seen that such welfare mechanisms, also contribute to the laid-back attitude of the population which may not always have a positive impact on the society.


  • Cantillon, B. and Vandenbroucke, F.I.G., 2014. Reconciling work and poverty reduction: how successful are European welfare states?. International policy exchange series.
  • Danforth, B., 2014. Worlds of welfare in time: A historical reassessment of the three-world typology. Journal of European Social Policy24(2), pp.164-182.
  • Emmenegger, P., Kvist, J., Marx, P. and Petersen, K., 2015. Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism: The making of a classic. Journal of European Social Policy25(1), pp.3-13.
  • Esping-Andersen, G., 2013. The three worlds of welfare capitalism. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Gerber, A., Nicklisch, A. and Voigt, S., 2014. Strategic choices for redistribution and the veil of ignorance: Theory and experimental evidence.
  • Hemerijck, A., 2013. Changing welfare states. Oxford University Press.
  • Koven, S. and Michel, S. eds., 2013. Mothers of a new world: Maternalist politics and the origins of welfare states. Routledge.
  • Kumlin, S., 2014. Informed performance evaluation of the welfare state? Experimental and realworld findings. How welfare states shape the democratic public. Policy feedback, participation, voting, and attitudes, pp.289-307.
  • Kumlin, S. and Stadelmann-Steffen, I. eds., 2014. How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public: Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Muldoon, R., Lisciandra, C., Colyvan, M., Martini, C., Sillari, G. and Sprenger, J., 2014. Disagreement behind the veil of ignorance. Philosophical Studies170(3), pp.377-394.
  • Skyrms, B., 2014. Evolution of the social contract. Cambridge University Press.
  • Stoy, V., 2014. Worlds of welfare services: from discovery to exploration. Social Policy & Administration48(3), pp.343-360.
  • Van Kersbergen, K. and Vis, B., 2015. Three worlds’ typology: Moving beyond normal science?. Journal of European Social Policy25(1), pp.111-123.

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