February 5, 2010

IT'S ALSO WORTH NOTING...:

Success of the left in Europe, the right in US (Edward Glaeser, February 5, 2010, Boston Globe)

AFTER SPENDING a week in India, I was surprised to return to the news that true blue Massachusetts had acquired its first Republican senator since Edward Brooke. I should have been less shocked. It was a mistake to think that President Obama’s sweeping victory was a sign that America had moved significantly to the left. America remains remarkably conservative by world standards, and Senator Scott Brown is just the latest manifestation of that fact.

There are underlying factors that explain the differences between the United States and Europe. Five years ago, my colleague Alberto Alesina and I wrote a book, “Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe: A World of Difference,’’ which tried to understand why the United States devotes far less on social services and redistribution than nations in Western Europe. These differences can’t be explained by economic forces. Before taxes, incomes in the United States are more unequal and more volatile, which would seem to call for more, not less, redistribution. Some argue that America has less redistribution because disadvantaged Americans find it easier to climb out of poverty, but poor Americans are actually less likely than poor Europeans to move up the income ladder.

We concluded that the redistribution gap between the United States and Europe could best be explained by America’s greater ethnic heterogeneity and more conservative political institutions.


That our poorest and blackest (or nearly so) state, Mississippi, has a GDP per capita higher than many European nations.



Posted by Orrin Judd at February 5, 2010 7:26 AM
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