The welfare state is mainly based on three pillars freedom from want, freedom from exploitation and freedom from fear. A welfare state should better be called an opportunity state because it provides all possible opportunities for a fuller and developed life.
Dimensions of welfare are health, food consumption and nutrition, education, employment and conditions of work, housing, social security, clothing, recreation and human freedom.
While every state today would like to call itself a welfare state, almost up to the end of the nineteenth century, most states were actually police state, their primary business being to provide law and order.
Promotion of welfare was left to the individual and it was no concern of the state. Among political thinkers it was Prof. Laski who was the first to turn attention of the world from the police state idea to the welfare state idea. It derived its economic sustenance from the Beverage plan in U.K.
The welfare state is a system of social responsibility for certain minimum standards of individual and community welfare. It is organised to ensure the well-being of its citizens and to use their resources to that end.
It is the assumption by the state of the responsibility for providing the means whereby all its members can enjoy minimum standards of health, economic security and civilized living and can share according to their capacity its social and cultural heritage.
In a welfare state, the state recognises the collective responsibility towards its weaker members and takes definite action to assist them.
From the political view-point the welfare state is one in which social security and social services are the birth right of every citizen, in which the development of social services are democratically organised to meet the essential needs of the whole community and in which the community participates as a matter of course.
Another theorist states that welfare state is based on two principles the right of everyone to a job and a guaranteed social minimum of health, wealth and leisure.
In a welfare state organised power is deliberately used to modify the play of market forces in at least two directions first, by guaranteeing individuals and families a minimum income irrespective of the market value of their work or their property; second, by narrowing the extent of insecurity by enabling individuals and families to meet certain social contingencies (e.g. sickness, unemployment etc.) which lead otherwise to individual and family crisis.
In a welfare state, the state is the friend, philosopher and guide to the individual from birth to death.