Thursday, February 23, 2012

Role of Government

The New York Times article "Middle Class Criticizes Aid Even as It Gets More" is fascinating.  (Here is the abbreviated Columbus Dispatch version). Contrary to theories that voters in democracies will always want more and more benefits from government, it shows data that in the past 30 years, those who are most against government spending are voters from states that benefit the most from state largesse.
Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.
Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates. And Lacy found that the pattern could not be explained by demographics or social issues.
It suggests that there are values and worldviews involved, leading voters to vote against their economic interests.  It seems that resentment of others' economic improvement, and frustration at the (lower) middle-class' stagnation, leads many to blame the government.

This is very interesting because from an Asian perspective, it is hard to understand where the Tea Party and others in the US get their animus against the government.  Especially in China, but even in supposedly laissez-faire Hong Kong, most people look to the state to solve many problems.  Of course people also worry about government corruption, and official collusion with business, but the idea that people can solve their own problems is not held up as an ideal like it is in the US.  The question of the role of the state in promoting economic growth is one of the big questions of the past century, and continues to be so.

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