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We need a welfare state of some sort for efficiency reasons, and would continue to do so even if all distributional problems were solved.
There is an efficiency case for an institutional welfare state.
So far as school education is concerned, many of the assumptions necessary for market efficiency fail, the main problems being imperfect information, imperfect capital markets, and external effects.
First, the welfare state is not a subject apart, but fits naturally into the framework of economic analysis. Secondly, the theoretical arguments support the existence of the welfare state not only for well known equity reasons but also - and powerfully - in efficiency terms.
Efficiency advantages and disadvantages are more finely balanced than with health care - one person's 'sign of a civilized society' is another's 'society is going to the dogs'.
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The best time to frame an answer to the letters of a friend, is the moment you receive them. Then the warmth of friendship, and the intelligence received, most forcibly cooperate.
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