Economics of the Welfare State (英語) ペーパーバック – 2012/5/4
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The fifth edition of this successful textbook discusses the different parts of the welfare system, in particular, cash benefits, health care and education. The text argues that the welfare state does not exist only to help the underprivileged, but also for reasons of efficiency, in areas where private markets would be inefficient or would not exist at all.
Suitable for economics students and for students on related disciplines such as social policy and political economy, this book is accessible and contains a non-technical appendix to each of the theory chapters, diagrams, additional readings, worked examples and end of chapter discussions.
Online Resource Centre
- Web links
- Further reading
- Links to related Oxford Scholarship Online titles
- PowerPoint slides - these have been expanded for the fifth edition
The authors would be advised to try live in the Soviet Union, North Korea, Venezuela, or at least Cuba, to see what good the equality and cohesion does to people.
"The Economics of the Welfare State" is commonly used as a textbook for upper year undergraduate and introductory graduate courses in economics. This does not, however, mean that you actually need to have such an economic background to understand it. This 415 page text starts from the beginning, covering all of the economic theory and politucal background you need to understand the contents. In my opinion, it would help to have taken a course in introductory microeconomics before reading this book. That isn't strictly necessary, though, I just think it's helpful in order to understand such serious economic ideas without too much head-scratching. In fact, the book has simplified summaries of the theory chapters for "non-technical" readers, and suggestions of what you should read, depending on your interests, if you don't want to read the whole thing.
The author warns that you may have to take some stuff on faith if you skip the theory, but trust me, you can because it's rock solid.
Oh yes, and while this may be a book on economics, you won't find very many equations in it. And every single one of them can safely be skipped without really hurting the general reader's understanding of the book. This isn't an abstract work, either - Britain is used as the major case study, with many comparisons to other countries such as the US. Specific institutions and policies are described and evaluated, with direct application to real-world political debates. Every bit of theory in the book is directly applied to relevant, detailed examples. The author intends to educate, rather than to pursuade, so the issues are considered in light of multiple ideological perspectives. After describing the major views on the welfare state, all the way from libertarianism through to socialism, Barr points out the relevance of his major points to the perspectives of these various groups.
This is a good book for people interested in evaluating just about any political orientation. It uses clear, well-justified arguments to demonstrate that market failure in many important areas is unambiguous, and that government intervention may not only be superior in principle, but often is superior in the real world. It considers these issues from different perspectives, making it clear that concerns for economic efficiency and social equity may lead to different conclusions.
The author makes no bones about shooting down all unsubstantiated arguments, not just conservative ones. He clearly demolishes a lot of liberal and socialist arguments that some services should be provided by government - if the market really is more efficient at producing something that one wants to guarantee, the government should usually pay for it, not produce it. He considers many situations, such as housing, where the historical use of subsidy and regulation rather than outright income transfers appears to be economically inefficient and inequitable. Barr also explains how some policies designed to decrease inequality can actually increase it. He describes the university system in the UK as regressive, that is, promoting inequality. While it is paid for by all and free to all, in practice the rich are much more likely to actually attend university. Those wishing to promote social equality would do best to read these arguments, so that they can avoid supporting measures destined to backfire. He even demonstrates that some major political arguments have been over trivialities. He explains how the differences between "pay as you go" social insurance schemes and those funded by one's own previous contributions are actually not all that great, contrary to much of the debate about Social Security in the US.