Who Wants What? Redistribution Preferences, Parochial Altruism and Population Heterogeneity
This chapter examines a set of assumptions underlying most arguments about the importance of economic circumstances to political outcomes. We make three related points. First, we argue for an integration of material self-interest and other-regarding concerns. As was the case in previous parts of the book, in terms of the influence of relative income, we adopt a slightly modified version of the model proposed by Romer (1975) and Meltzer and Richard (1981). Second, we argue for the importance of something that, for now, we will term “altruism.” We will explain that we consider other-regarding preferences an important motivation for individuals. Moral benefits are derived from the support of redistribution but, we will further argue, these moral benefits are inextricably dependent on the identity of the poor. Altruism is most relevant when the recipients of benefits are similar to those financing them. Third, we argue that the material benefits of redistribution dominate the preferences of the poor. The rich, on the other hand, can afford to be altruistic. Combining the second and third points above, we will show that group homogeneity magnifies (or limits) the importance of altruism for the richt.
David Rueda is Professor of Comparative Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxford University, and a Fellow of Nuffield College. His research and teaching interests include comparative political economy, the politics of industrialized democracies and comparative methods. His current research examines the relationship between government partisanship and economic policy in industrialized democracies. He is also working on projects analyzing the politics of inequality and the influence of institutional configurations over political and economic outcomes. He holds a PhD from Cornell University in Government. He published the bookSocial Democracy Inside Out: Government Partisanship, Insiders, and Outsiders in Industrialized Democracies (2007) and articles in journals such as British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Democracy Inequality and Representation, World Politics and American Political Science Review, among others.
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