This paper explores the relationship between economic growth and the welfare state. We argue that: (i) the institutional constraints set by the international monetary system may be at least as effective determinants of growth differentials between countries as the different dimensions of their welfare states. We show how this international system may impose an asymmetric discipline/flexibility mix on the macreoconomic policies of different countries, thereby influencing their growth performance.; (ii) the European currency reshapes some of the pre-existing constraints and also open up new opportunities; (iii) in the new international setting, Europe is facing a choice between alternative models. In one alternative, the “welfare system” needs to be reduced to a minimum; in the second, its role should be enhanced and made more active, through an appropriate mix of welfare policies oriented towards the promotion of social well-being and policies oriented towards the promotion of productive capacities.