Are individualistic societies less equal? Evidence from the parasite stress theory of values

BORIS NIKOLAEV

JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC BEHAVIOR & ORGANIZATION, Volume 138

Abstract: It is widely believed that individualistic societies, which emphasize personal freedom, award social status for accomplishment, and favor minimal government intervention, are more prone to higher levels of income inequality compared to more collectivist societies, which value conformity, loyalty, and tradition and favor more interventionist policies. The results in this paper, however, challenge this conventional view. Drawing on a rich literature in biology and evolutionary psychology, we test the provocative Parasite Stress Theory of Values, which suggests a possible link between the historical prevalence of infectious diseases, the cultural dimension of individualism–collectivism and differences in income inequality across countries. Specifically, in a two-stage least squares analysis, we use the historical prevalence of infectious diseases as an instrument for individualistic values, which, in the next stage, predict the level of income inequality, measured by the net GINI coefficient from the Standardized World Income Inequality Database (SWIID). Our findings suggest that societies with more individualistic values have significantly lower net income inequality. The results are robust even after controlling for a number of confounding factors such as economic development, legal origins, religion, human capital, other cultural values, economic institutions, and geographical controls.

Over-incarceration and disenfranchisement

MURAT C. MUNGAN

PUBLIC CHOICE

Abstract: This article presents a model wherein law enforcers propose sentences to maximize their likelihood of reelection, and shows that elections typically generate over-incarceration, i.e., longer than optimal sentences. It then studies the effects of disenfranchisement laws, which prohibit convicted felons from voting. The removal of ex-convicts from the pool of eligible voters reduces the pressure politicians may otherwise face to protect the interests of this group, and thereby causes the political process to push the sentences for criminal offenses upwards. Therefore, disenfranchisement further widens the gap between the optimal sentence and the equilibrium sentence, and thereby exacerbates the problem of over-incarceration. Moreover, this result is valid even when voter turnout is negatively correlated with people’s criminal tendencies, i.e., when criminals vote less frequently than non-criminals.

Federalism, Devolution, and Liberty

LUKE PHILIP PLOTICA

AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT, Volume 6, Number 1

Abstract: For much of the twentieth century the landscape of American federalism was characterized by accumulation of power by the national government. In recent decades influential political and legal thinkers have called for devolution of governmental power to the states and localities, where, they argue, such powers properly belong and are more effectively exercised. One of the recurrent argumentative tropes in the devolutionary literature maintains that devolution is more desirable than centralization because it better protects and enhances individual liberty, and not merely the sovereignty of the states. The project of this essay is to challenge this alleged linkage by examining four of its most common and compelling manifestations. Utilizing Isaiah Berlin’s distinction between negative and positive liberty, the essay offers critical analysis of claims that devolution serves individual liberty by (1) facilitating policy experimentation, (2) spurring interjurisdictional competition, (3) promoting local self-government, and (4) enforcing the limits of governmental power.

Colonization and Democracy: Tocqueville Reconsidered

EWA ATANASSOW

AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW, Volume 111, Issue 1

Abstract: The prominence of colonization in Tocqueville’s life and works has been widely noted, yet scholars disagree about its importance. The perceived tension between Tocqueville’s analysis of democracy and his advocacy of colonization continues to be the subject of heated scholarly debate. Revisiting Tocqueville’s analytical and practical engagement with colonization, this essay reexamines its relationship to Tocqueville’s account of democracy. It argues that, while lending political support to the French empire, Tocqueville was a clairvoyant critic of colonial rule; and that his involvement with colonization could only be properly understood in light of the historical and civilizational vista that informs his oeuvre as a whole. Proposing that Tocqueville viewed European expansionism as an instrument of the global movement toward democratic equality, the essay concludes with an assessment of the significance of Tocqueville’s colonial writings for his “new political science,” and their relevance today.

North and south: long-run social mobility in England and attitudes toward welfare

NINA BOBERG-FAZLIĆ & PAUL SHARP

CLIOMETRICA

Abstract: In this paper, we examine the long-run social mobility experience in England. We present evidence for surprisingly constant levels of social mobility over the period 1550–1749, despite huge structural changes. Examining regional differences, we show that the North of England exhibited higher rates of social mobility than the South. We link this to the hypothesis that historically high levels of social mobility can lead to a culture of non-acceptance of redistribution and welfare provision. Taking advantage of the fact that welfare provision was determined at the local level at the time, we are able to compare social mobility rates and welfare spending within a single country. Consistent with the hypothesis, we find evidence for historically higher levels of social mobility as well as lower welfare spending and less acceptance of redistribution in the North.

Misjudging the character of the welfare state: Hayek, generality, and the knowledge problem

CHRISTOPHER S. MARTIN & NIKOLAI G. WENZEL

THE REVIEW OF AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS

Abstract: What are the limits of collective action? As James Buchanan famously worried, is it possible to empower the productive state without lapsing into the predatory state? This paper uses insights from F.A. Hayek to address problems of public goods and the role of the state. Hayek convincingly argued that no central planner has sufficient knowledge to run an economy. Yet Hayek also allowed for state provision of some goods beyond the prevention of coercion. The question, then, is whether Hayek’s safeguards offer a satisfactory response to Buchanan’s worry. This paper contends that Hayek violated his own conditions for permissible government activity. Nevertheless, he offers a serious research agenda for limiting state abuses.

Bowling for Fascism: Social Capital and the Rise of the Nazi Party

SHANKER SATYANATH

JOURNAL OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

Abstract: Using newly collected data on association density in 229 towns and cities in interwar Germany, we show that denser social networks were associated with faster entry into the Nazi Party. The effect is large: one standard deviation higher association density is associated with at least 15 percent faster Nazi Party entry. Party membership, in turn, predicts electoral success. Social networks thus aided the rise of the Nazis that destroyed Germany’s first democracy. The effects of social capital depended on the political context: in federal states with more stable governments, higher association density was not correlated with faster Nazi Party entry.