Sunday, September 23, 2012

The right does anything to avoid redistribution (including the manipulation of nationalism)

Great reminder by Paul Krugman about the essentials of the political economy of redistribution. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand inequality in democracies. In any society income distribution is skewed, which means that the median voter has preferences for redistribution. This is the essential part: "imagine yourself as a hired gun for the right tail of the income distribution. What would you do in an effort to stop the median voter from realizing that she would benefit from a more European-style system? Well, you’d do everything you can to exaggerate the disincentive effects of higher taxes, while trying to convince middle-income voters that the benefits of government programs go to other people. And at the same time, you’d do everything you can to disenfranchise lower-income citizens, so that the median voter has a higher income than the median citizen". In many countries, especially but not only in Europe, you would add that one of the things a desperate right wing guy would do is to manipulate the nationalistic feelings of the people, so that middle and even lower classes support right wing leaders who present themselves as more nationalist, just because this way elections are run on nationalist agendas, and not on redistributive issues. As John E. Roemer once said, that is one of the reasons why the poor do not expropriate the rich in democracies. Followers of current issues in Catalonia and Spain may obtain useful insights to understand recent developments.

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