The welfare state consists of a network of public, financial benefits originally established to even out the boom and bust extremes of the business cycle. In the United States, the welfare state got its start with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and continued with President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.
Although the welfare state’s existence is not especially controversial outside of libertarian circles, a number of related issues merit reflection. First, does the state possess the normative competence to provide a diverse array of services beyond its core functions of making and executing the law, as well as judging under the law? Second, does the state bear a legitimate responsibility for resolving social issues such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness and disease?