Welfarism has been posited as central to how the state fostered the integration of the working class into the post-war economic order. However, analysis of national accounts data from 1949 to 1975 shows that New Zealand’s welfare state redistributed income primarily from one fraction of the working class to another. That is, wage-earners financed their own collective consumption. This finding suggests that system integration effects of state welfare expenditure are predicated less on economic gains that accrue to labour, than they are on state-sponsored welfare discourse. Future research should therefore concentrate on both economic and discursive aspects of the welfare state.