The Welfare State as Piggy Bank: Information, Risk, Uncertainty, and the Role of the State

Hardcover | May 1, 2001

byNicholas BarrAs told byN. A. Barr

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Of the many functions of the welfare state, two are particularly prominent: the 'Robin Hood' function - the provision of poverty relief, the redistribution of income and wealth, and the reduction of social exclusion; and the 'piggy bank' function - ensuring mechanisms for insurance and forredistribution over the life cycle. The piggy-bank function, unlike the redistributive purpose of the welfare state, has received relatively little attention, and is not widely understood. This book redresses the balance. Nicholas Barr's central contention is that---contrary to popularopinion---the welfare state exists for reasons additional to poverty relief. These reasons - encapsulated by the piggy-bank function - arise out of pervasive problems of imperfect information, risk, and uncertainty. Even if all poverty and social exclusion could be eradicated, people would stillneed to insure themselves and to redistribute over the life cycle. As a result, Barr argues, the welfare state is here to stay, since twenty-first century developments do nothing to undermine these reasons. He also explores ways in which the welfare state can and will adapt to economic and socialchange, including specific, and sometimes novel, solutions. The analysis in "The Welfare State as Piggy Bank" is international, applying to advanced industrial countries, as well as addressing post-communist countries, and touching upon middle-income developing countries. Barr's approach is contemporary and forward-thinking. His discussion ranges over anumber of topics of central relevance to life in the twenty-first century, including genetic screening and its impact on insurance; the convergence of private and social insurance; how to finance long-term care; pension reform in the light of fluid family structures and a mobile workforce; loans forfinancing investment in human capital; and new ways of involving private finance in tertiary education.

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Of the many functions of the welfare state, two are particularly prominent: the 'Robin Hood' function - the provision of poverty relief, the redistribution of income and wealth, and the reduction of social exclusion; and the 'piggy bank' function - ensuring mechanisms for insurance and forredistribution over the life cycle. The piggy-...

Nicholas Barr has a BSc and MSc from the London School of Economics and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He is Reader in Economics at the LSE, the author of numerous books and articles on the economics of the welfare state and the finance of higher education including "The Economics...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:316 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.87 inPublished:May 1, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199246599

ISBN - 13:9780199246595

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Table of Contents

1. IntroductionPart 1 Economic theory2. TheoryPart 2 Insurance3. The mirage of private unemployment insurance4. Problems with medical insurance5. Twenty-first century insurance issuesPart 3 Pensions6. The economics of pensions7. Misleading guides to pension design8. Pension design: the options9. Twenty-first century pensions issuesPart 4 Education10. Core issues in the economics of education11. Information problems12. Designing student loans13. Financing higher education: the options14. Twenty-first century education issuesPart 5 The welfare state in a changing world15. The welfare state in post-communist countries16. The welfare state in a changing world

Editorial Reviews

`The Welfare State as Piggy Bank is not a personal manifesto of policy proposals in each area. But Barr does not shrink from reaching firm conclusions about those policies that appear to him to be clearly inferior or superior to the alternatives.'Sir Howard Davies THES