GV4D4 - week 5

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These are my notes from October 24 for GV4D4 at the London School of Economics for the 2017-2018 school year. I took this module as part of the one-year Inequalities and Social Science MSc program.

The usual disclaimer: all notes are my personal impressions and do not necessarily reflect the view of the lecturer.

Liberalism and Inequality: Winner-Take-All Politics


Winner-Take-All Politics by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

On the political features that account for America’s high inequality.

Organized Combat or Structural Advantage? by Jonathan Hopkin and Kate Alexander Shaw

On how the organised combat model that Hacker and Pierson developed to explain winner-takes-all inequality in the US doesn’t quite work for the UK, where a better explanation takes into account the structural advantage that elites derive from the ideology of unfettered markets (as pioneered by Thatcher and subsequently New Labour). Co-authored by the lecturer in 2014.

Why Hasn’t Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality? by Adam Bonica et al

Addressing the failures of the Meltzer and Richard model + similar models, specifically in the US. Gives five main reasons.

  1. both mainstream parties have moved rightward recently
    • both parties espouse neoliberal economic policy, with a focus on free markets at the expense of greater redistribution
  2. higher immigration (esp low-income migrants) & poor not voting means that the median voter tends to be more well-off than the median resident
  3. as private markets for welfare flourish, people get used to turning to market solutions for social services
    • they start to associate government spending with poor quality services & inefficiency, thus voting against spending increases
    • which ofc becomes sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy (ratchet effect?) because govt services that don’t get enough funding will get worse and worse
  4. influence of $ in policy-making, revolving door (those at the top are usually quite centrist in their views)
  5. lack of accountability of elected officials (gerrymandering, gridlock, voter apathy)

my own thoughts on this (though not necessarily relevant to this paper, which came out in 2013): we should also consider the impact of ossified structures & the power of individuals within those structures to have lasting impacts. part of the reason Bernie didn’t get the Dem nomination was due to Debbie Schultz’s desire (with the backing of others in the establishment) to keep him out no matter what. If she hadn’t had the institutional ability to do that, OR if she had just changed her mind, then maybe Bernie would have gotten the nomination & perhaps even the Presidency, and our view of the American political landscape would be very different