Welfare states vary across nations and change over time. And the balance between markets and government; free enterprise and social protection is perennially in question. But all developed societies have welfare states of one kind or another - they are a fundamental dimension of modern government. And even after decades of free-market criticism and reform, their core institutions have proven resilient and popular. This Very Short Introduction describes the modern welfare state, explaining its historical and contemporary significance and arguing that far from being 'a failure' or 'a problem', welfare states are an essential element of contemporary capitalism, and a vital concomitant of democratic government. In this accessible and entertaining account, David Garland cuts through the fog of misunderstandings to explain in clear and simple terms, what welfare states are, how they work, and why they matter. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.