Whose opportunities ? (Colloque, oct. 2009, National Library of Portugal)

The Virtuous Circle of Non-Material Redistribution

vendredi 23 octobre 2009, par Henry Milner

Thèmes : Justice sociale

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I approach this subject not as a political philosopher, but as an empirical social scientist. On policy related questions, philosophers, like economists, tend to be concerned with appropriate courses of action to be taken by decision makers, but do not concern themselves with the presence or absence of incentives to take certain courses of action and not others, incentives built into the logic of the institutions in which decision makers operate. In this paper, when looking at fostering equality, I am concerned not only with policies that may have such an effect, but, especially, with institutions that place incentives on decision makers to adopt such policies, and indeed, on voters to elect decision makers who will do so. Political scientists have long grappled with the objective of equality. Real progress has been made toward understanding and applying the principle of political equality, i.e. how to reduce the gap in political clout between those with greater and lesser material resources, with applications such as to rules governing political contributions, media access, subsidies to political parties, etc. On the other hand, there have been few efforts to link political institutions per se with socioeconomic inequality. In the 1970s a literature linking neocorporatist labour-market relationships with egalitarian outcomes emerged among European social scientists, primarily sociologists. What it showed was that the successful northern European countries were able to combine economic growth and more egalitarian income distributions through centralized negotiated agreements between business, labour and government resulting in policies which trained workers for, and moved them toward, higher paying industries and jobs. My contribution is to the other side of the coin of this now well-established relationship between institutions and outcomes. With a few, partial, exceptions, analysis of this relationship was not extended to political institutions per se or to policies concerned with non-material outcomes such as education and the media. In my work during the 1990s I explored this relationship, arguing that without incorporating this dimension, we cannot fully understand the durability of redistribution policies and outcomes in the more egalitarian societies, especially those in Scandinavia.

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par Henry Milner

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