One of the most important and absorbing questions of our time is whether governments should extend or retrench their efforts toward assisting people who do not seem to be able to make it on their own. Those who believe that governments should expand their programs to help the needy argue that a compassionate and affluent society has both the ability and the responsibility to do so; those who believe that governments have already pushed too far and too fast argue that the advance of the welfare state must be halted. Closely related to this basic disagreement is the question whether society must sacrifice in one area in order to build in another, that is whether one government program must come at the expense of another. Those who argue that governments should do more for their less fortunate people tend to believe that high levels of defense spending are a hindrance to expanding welfare programs. Conversely, those who believe defense needs are under funded generally feel that welfare expenditures are a limitation on national security.
This essay focuses on this warfare-welfare dichotomy by measuring and comparing warfare and welfare expenditures over an extended period of time in two countries: The United States and the United Kingdom. The main object of this essay is to show the long-term trends of warfare and welfare spending in these two countries in order to determine 1) whether either or both are rising or falling, 2) whether welfare expenditures are inversely related to defense expenditures, and 3) whether the welfare-warfare experience in a foreign country comparable with the United States can offer important insights into our present predicaments and help us anticipate certain problems we might face in the future. The United Kingdom was chosen for comparison with the United States because its defense policies and expenditures have closely paralleled ours for the past 30 years and because American welfare expenditures have tended, usually with a lag of about 20 years, to follow those of Great Britain more than any other country. England is, moreover, our "Mother Country" in more ways than one, and Americans have readily related to such comparisons in the past. The base year 1946 was selected because United Kingdom welfare expenditures are available in a complete series only since that date and yet 30 years is a sufficient time frame to measure both long and short term trends.
Clayton, James L.
"A Comparison of Defense and Welfare Spending in the United States and the United Kingdom, 1946-1976,"
The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare: Vol. 4
, Article 20.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/jssw/vol4/iss8/20