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Welfare policies, in Europe or anywhere else, can almost always be shown to have been instituted not for the purpose of helping people in need, but rather because they served the political interests one or more powerful groups.

This argument strikes me as either falling perilously close to kapitallogik, or as an exercise in stating the obvious, depending a little on how you define "political interests."

If something does not serve the "political interests" of group A, then that something will not be on group A's agenda - "stuff that makes it onto the agenda" is kinda the definition of "political interest," isn't it? And in order to enact the kind of sweeping social changes that characterise the birth of a modern, functioning welfare state, group A would have to be pretty powerful - after all, that's the definition of power: The ability to implement your political agenda (possibly over the objections of dissenters).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Mar 1st, 2009 at 11:31:44 AM EST
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But this is important regarding redistribution policies because it means that unless altruism can be shown to be the reason any redistriution must have provided enough benefits to the haves as it did to the have-nots. So, in order to make the case the diarist is making you have to assume that altruism is a powerful enough motivator for collective political action.  I'm arguing that although it's been studied pretty deeply, there just isn't very convincing evidence of that, so it's better to bet on multipliers.
by santiago on Mon Mar 2nd, 2009 at 12:29:48 PM EST
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You do not need to have the wealthy on board for redistribution. You only need 50 % plus one.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 2nd, 2009 at 01:58:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not true, especially in Europe with proportional representation legislatures and the lack of need for a majority to govern, with the resultant log rolling. A powerful minority can usually be shown to carry the day (that's what the whole academic literature on Political Economy is about) over the majority due to the fact of concentrated versus diffuse interests.  
by santiago on Mon Mar 2nd, 2009 at 04:01:32 PM EST
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