The Public Interest

The Mirage of the Welfare State

Leslie Lenkowsky

Winter 1978

IN his invaluable book, The New Language of Politics, William Satire tells of a British newspaper reader in 1951 who advised Clement Attlee to dismiss “everyone who used the term ‘welfare state,’ because 'nobody is very well, and the state of the fare is rotten.’ “ Matters may or may not have improved much in the quarter-century since, but hardly any serious public figure in Britain or elsewhere now seems to invoke “the welfare state” as a rallying cry unless he is attacking it. Almost everywhere, the term “welfare state” (popularized in 1941 by William Temple, Archbishop of York, to denote the aims of the countries allied against the “power state” of Nazi Germany) has lost its attraction, not unlike another noble ideal of the early war years, Wendell WiUkie’s “one world.”

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