Welfare in America and Europe

December 9, 1977

Report Outline
Reappraisal on Two Continents
Old and New World Attitude
Dilemmas in Reforming Welfare
Special Focus

Reappraisal on Two Continents

Americans tend to view the idea of the welfare state with something approaching horror. Western Europeans, on the other hand, typically regard it as a necessity, a civilized, albeit costly, way of redistributing income to eliminate dire poverty. The so-called “cradle-to-grave security” systems in effect in Scandinavia, the Low Countries and Britain have succeeded to a large extent in providing a basic level of subsistence for all. Yet, the taxpayers have paid a high price for these programs.

Concern about the cost of social welfare programs in those countries has provoked a public outcry, particularly in Britain, about welfare “chiselers” and has led to demands that something be done to halt the rapid expansion of these programs. While there have been numerous proposals for making the systems more efficient and subsequently less costly, it is unlikely that any country will dismantle its cradle-to-grave security programs in the near future. The European attachment to existing systems was expressed by Dr. Elizabeth Weiser of Austria's Ministry of Social Welfare. She told a Canadian journalist: “I accept that the state owes a minimum duty to its people. We don't want to go the way of the Americans.”

The American welfare system is often described as chaotic, unmanageable, inefficient, inequitable, riddled with fraud, degrading to those it is intended to help and increasingly burdensome on those who pay for it. Through the years, there have been countless attempts to reform the so-called “welfare mess.” The latest effort was outlined by President Carter on Aug. 6 and legislation was introduced in Congress Sept. 12. Amid considerable opposition, the House Welfare Reform Sub-committee has begun marking up the bill and expects to finish by early January. The Senate Finance Committee, preoccupied with energy and social security legislation, has not yet taken any action on the bill.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Aug. 2010  Social Welfare in Europe
Aug. 03, 2001  Welfare Reform
Dec. 06, 1996  Welfare, Work and the States
Sep. 16, 1994  Welfare Experiments
Apr. 10, 1992  Welfare Reform
Oct. 10, 1986  Working on Welfare
Mar. 09, 1984  Social Welfare Under Reagan
Apr. 17, 1981  European Welfare States Under Attack
Dec. 09, 1977  Welfare in America and Europe
Nov. 21, 1975  Future of Welfare
Dec. 20, 1967  Welfare Reform
Jun. 08, 1966  Guaranteed Income Plan
Oct. 04, 1961  Public Welfare Policy
Mar. 09, 1954  Worker Welfare Funds
Jul. 20, 1950  Welfare State
May 07, 1947  Union Welfare Funds
Jan. 10, 1940  Expansion of the Food-Stamp Plan
Regional Political Affairs: Europe
Welfare and Welfare Reform