Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Livia Gershon discusses why relative equality plays a far greater role in people's well-being than absolute income in developed countries. And Stefanie Stantcheva writes about the cultural roots of the U.S.' relative acceptance of extreme inequality (though it's worth noting that even in the U.S. public preferences are far more egalitarian than actual results):
Despite their country’s mounting income gap, Americans’ support for redistribution has, according to the General Social Survey, remained flat for decades. Perhaps John Steinbeck got it right when he supposedly said that, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

For those who believe that a society should offer its members equal opportunity, and that anyone who works hard can climb higher on the socioeconomic ladder, redistribution is unnecessary and unfair. After all, equal opportunists argue, if everyone begins at the same starting point, a bad outcome must be due to an individual’s own missteps.

This view approximates that of a majority of Americans. According to the World Values Survey, 70% of Americans believe that the poor can make it out of poverty on their own. This contrasts sharply with attitudes in Europe, where only 35% believe the same thing. Put another way, most Europeans consider the poor unfortunate, while most Americans consider them indolent. This may be one reason why European countries support more generous – and costlier – welfare transfers than the US.
An even more striking pattern is that Americans are overly optimistic about social mobility in parts of the country where actual mobility is low – including the southeastern states of Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In these states, respondents believe that mobility is more than two times greater than it is. By contrast, respondents underestimate social mobility in northern states – including Vermont, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington – where it is higher.

As part of our study, we shared data on social stratification in Europe and America with our participants. We found that self-identified liberals and conservatives interpreted this information differently. When shown pessimistic information about mobility, for example, liberals became even more supportive of redistributive policies, such as public education and universal health care.

Conservatives, by contrast, remained unmoved. While they acknowledged that low social mobility is economically limiting, they remained as averse to government intervention and redistribution as they were before we shared the data with them.
- George Monbiot discusses how a program to combat isolation has produced substantial social and health benefits for one UK community.

- The CCPA has released its Alternative Federal Budget as a reminder of what we could accomplish at the federal level with a modicum of political will and social values, while Andrew Jackson focuses on the opportunity to expand the Working Income Tax Benefit. And Paul Willcocks comments on the potential long-term benefits from the B.C. NDP's first budget under John Horgan.

- Nav Persaud makes the care for a national pharmacare program by pointing out the problems with tying prescription drug access to jobs.

- Finally, Jeremy Nuttall highlights the lack of any improvement in the latest iteration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership - no matter how reflexively the Liberals slap the term "progressive" on it.

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