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Divide and Deal

The Politics of Distribution in Democracies

Ian Shapiro, Peter Swenson, Daniela Donno Panayides

Publication Year: 2010

Why are democracies so unequal? Despite the widespread expectation that democracy, via expansion of the franchise, would lead to redistribution in favor of the masses, in reality majorities regularly lose out in democracies. Taking a broad view of inequality as encompassing the distribution of wealth, risk, status, and well-being, this volume explores how institutions, individuals, and coalitions contribute to the often surprising twists and turns of distributive politics.

The contributors hail from a range of disciplines and employ an array of methodologies to illuminate the central questions of democratic distributive politics: What explains the variety of welfare state systems, and what are their prospects for survival and change? How do religious beliefs influence people’s demand for redistribution? When does redistributive politics reflect public opinion? How can different and seemingly opposed groups successfully coalesce to push through policy changes that produce new winners and losers?

The authors identify a variety of psychological and institutional factors that influence distributive outcomes. Taken together, the chapters highlight a common theme: politics matters. In seeking to understand the often puzzling contours of distribution and redistribution, we cannot ignore the processes of competition, bargaining, building, and destroying the political alliances that serve as bridges between individual preferences, institutions, and policy outcomes.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-15

Wealthy people used to find democracy frightening. The reason was simple: the poor, once enfranchised, should be expected to soak the rich. This fear bred elite resistance to expanding the franchise, particularly beyond the propertied classes. Nor did this fear, and the reasoning behind it, go unnoticed on the political left . The failure of the revolutions of 1830 and ...

Part I Institutions

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1 Welfare Regimes and Redistribution in the South

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pp. 19-42

The word “crisis” has been widely used in discussions of welfare states and regimes in the late twentieth century. “Almost all advanced industrial democracies cut entitlements in some programs in this period,” summarize Huber and Stephens in their book Development and Crisis of the Welfare State (2001, 1). The crisis could be seen in the developing world also; a key ...

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2 Distributional Confl icts in Mature Welfare States

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pp. 43-71

The welfare state has a large, nearly ubiquitous presence in the economic activity of all advanced industrialized societies. The average level of government expenditures in OECD economies grew from 28 percent of GDP (in 1960) to 51 percent of GDP in 1997 (OECD 1999). This growth in the size of the public sector has been accompanied by a commensurate growth in the level of taxes...

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3 The Politics of Tax Structure

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pp. 72-98

Governments that wish to redistribute through budgetary policy do so mostly on the spending side and not on the taxing side of the budget. The taxing side is nevertheless important, partly because less-efficient tax structure seems to be associated with lower taxation and spending levels. Hence, political struggles over spending levels may partly be fought as ...

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4 AIDS, Inequality, and Access to Antiretroviral Treatment

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pp. 99-117

According to the median voter theorem, democracy should facilitate a more equal distribution of resources. This chapter explores whether this is the case with regard to the provision of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to people sick with the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It starts off by demonstrating that...

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5 Distributive Politics and Formal Institutions in New Democracies: The Effect of Electoral Rules on Budget Voting in the Russian State Duma, 1994 – 2003

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pp. 118-145

Transition from authoritarianism to democracy in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has brought about massive changes in distributive politics of the region. Most of the literature on the subject emphasizes the “dual” nature of this transition: the shift from a single-party authoritarian system to multiparty competitive democracy was accompanied by ...

Part II Individuals

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6 Religion and Social Insurance: Evidence from the United States, 1970 – 2002

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pp. 149-185

One of the major puzzles for political economy and a central question in this volume is why some governments adopt policies that intervene heavily to redistribute income from rich to poor and to provide social insurance against adverse events, while other governments do much less in either regard.1 Existing literature on the political economy...

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7 Moral Values and Distributive Politics: An Equilibrium Analysis of the 2004 U.S. Election

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pp. 186-220

The Republican Party, whose economic policies are perhaps in the economic interest of the top 15 percent of the wealth distribution, is supported by approximately one-half of the U.S. electorate. President George W. Bush, during his first term, made quite clear what his economic policies are — from tax cuts that benefit primarily the very rich, engendering ...

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8 Giving the People What They Want? Age, Class, and Distribution in the United States

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pp. 221-242

Democratic societies are rife with inequalities. Some of these inequalities are so deep, persistent, or consequential that they provoke disbelief and outrage. How could any nation with some semblance of political equality allow key resources to be distributed so unevenly among its members? Surely, most people would not accept such inequalities, so the answer ...

Part III Coalitions

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9 Good Distribution, Bad Delivery, and Ugly Politics: The Traumatic Beginnings of Germany’s Health Care System

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pp. 245-279

"Will America copy Germany’s mistakes?” asked Gustav Hartz, a noted German critic of his country’s national health insurance system in a 1935 issue of the New York State Medical Journal (Hartz 1935). The answer was made public soon. By the time of publication, President Franklin Roosevelt had already decided against including health insurance in the....

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10 Democracy and Distributive Politics in India

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pp. 280-297

To most theorists of democracy in the West, India is an embarrassing anomaly and hence largely avoided. By most theoretical stipulations India should not have survived as a democracy: it is too poor, its citizens are largely rural and uneducated, its civic institutions are rather weak. It is a paradox even for those who believe in a positive relationship between ...

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11 The Political Uses of Public Opinion: Lessons from the Estate Tax Repeal

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pp. 298-339

What impact does public opinion have on legislative outcomes in a democracy? In this chapter, we ask this question while examining the surprising case of the repeal of the federal estate tax in 2001. This repeal benefits only a tiny minority of very wealthy Americans: those bequeathing, or inheriting from, estates larger than...

About the Contributors

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pp. 341-342


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pp. 343-359

E-ISBN-13: 9780814708835
E-ISBN-10: 0814708838
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814740590
Print-ISBN-10: 0814740596

Page Count: 420
Publication Year: 2010