Private Welfare

When we speak of welfare, we usually have in mind the benefits dispensed by the welfare state. This is a telling measure of the continuing legitimacy of the welfare state and of its resistance to the established trend towards reducing the size and scope of the public sector. Yet, a few moments’ reflection reveals that we are constantly providing and receiving welfare benefits in our various private capacities: as members of families; as donors to, and volunteer workers for, private charities; and as individuals prudently distributing our incomes over our life spans. Such ‘private welfare’ actually looms larger in our lives than government welfare.