Glaeser delves into the differences in attitudes toward socialism and redistribution between the US and European nations, and finds that the causes can’t be explained by underlying economic realities. We have income inequality and a lack of social mobility, so why don’t we have the same political will for redistribution and welfare?
Glaeser thinks it has to do with America’s ethnic heterogeneity and political institutions. Americans are more stingy with welfare because its recipients often have unfamiliar race or ethnicity, and our politics are much more winner-takes-all so that the poor minority cannot vote themselves more redistributed benefits.
This leads to his conclusion:
A year ago, I wondered if the Obama victory signaled the declining significance of race and an American lurch to the left. But countries change slowly. In 2009, a Pew survey found that only 29 percent of Americans think that success comes from forces outside their control, as opposed to 52 percent of French respondents and 66 percent of Germans. No one should be surprised that American voters, even in Massachusetts, pushed back against a progressive agenda. By world standards, we are a conservative nation. Those who would change that fact need to dig in for a long fight.
Of course, much of the left’s recent electoral difficulties are a product of anti-incumbent sentiment attributable to the terrible economic conditions.
But the point about America’s attitudes towards progressive governance stands. Socialism is a real form of government that Europe embraces. US left-wing politicians, however, avoid being labeled anything that sounds like socialism, even if they favor the same policies that the European left does.