The welfare state is a form of government in which the state protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of its citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for citizens unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. Sociologist T. H. Marshall described the modern welfare state as a distinctive combination of democracy, welfare, and capitalism.
As a type of mixed economy, the welfare state funds the governmental institutions for health care and education along with direct benefits given to individual citizens. Early features of the welfare state, such as public pensions and social insurance, developed from the 1880s onwards in industrializing Western countries.
World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II have been characterized as important events that ushered in expansions of the welfare state, including the use of state interventionism to combat lost output, high unemployment, and other problems. By the late 1970s, the contemporary capitalist welfare state began to decline, in part due to the economic crisis of post-World War II capitalism and in part due to the lack of a well-articulated ideological foundation for the welfare state.