Summary of Shifting Tides

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In the United States, where health insurance and other social benefits are often tied to employment, many people view the “welfare state” as a crutch for the poor. But changes in gender roles, the demonstrated shortcomings of private health insurance and varying employment patterns make such thinking woefully obsolete. Professor Nicholas Barr argues, in this cogent analysis for executives and policy experts, that today’s outdated policies do not reflect new realities that make judicious intervention by governments more important than ever.

About the Author

Nicholas Barr is a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science



The term “welfare state” commonly refers to an array of government programs, but while many people take the simplistic view that state benefits only aid the poor, they are in fact a way to help individuals adversely affected by market failures. The welfare state fill gaps in private insurance and social care, and fuels economic growth by providing a support system for people starting new businesses or careers. Irrational human behavior, imperfect market information and insecurity make welfare states necessary, regardless of the level of prosperity in a society.

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