A new OECD study shows we have the world’s second-largest welfare state — just behind France. Direct government spending isn’t the only way that societies provide social services. We channel payments through private companies, encouraged, regulated and subsidized by government. This is what the United States does, notably with employer-provided health insurance (which is subsidized by government by not counting employer contributions as taxable income) and tax-favored retirement savings accounts.


When these are added to government’s direct payments, France remains at the top, but the United States vaults into second position with roughly 30 percent of its GDP spent on social services, including health care. We have a hybrid welfare state, partly run by the government and partly outsourced to private markets.