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Rich Democracies

Rich Democracies: Political Economy, Public Policy, and Performance

HAROLD L. WILENSKY
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 922
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pn955
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  • Book Info
    Rich Democracies
    Book Description:

    In this landmark work, the culmination of 30 years of systematic, comprehensive comparison of 19 rich democracies, Wilensky answers two basic questions: (1) What is distinctly modern about modern societies--in what ways are they becoming alike? (2) How do variations in types of political economy shape system performance? He specifies similarities and differences in the structure and interplay of government, political parties, the mass media, industry, labor, professions, agriculture, churches, and voluntary associations. He then demonstrates how differences in bargaining arrangements among these groups lead to contrasting policy profiles and patterns of taxing and spending, which in turn explain a large number of outcomes: economic performance, political legitimacy, equality, job security, safety and risk, real health, the reduction of poverty and environmental threats, and the effectiveness and fairness of regulatory regimes. Drawing on quantitative data and case studies covering the last 50 years and more than 400 interviews he conducted with top decision-makers and advisors, Wilensky provides a richly detailed account of the common social, economic, and labor problems modern governments confront and their contrasting styles of conflict resolution. The result is new light on the likely paths of development of rich democracies as they become richer. Assessing alternative theories, Wilensky offers a powerful critique of such images of modern society as "post-industrial" or "high-tech," "the information age" or the alleged dominance of "globalization." Because he systematically compares all of the rich democracies with at least three million population, Wilensky can specify what is truly exceptional about the United States, what it shares with Britain and Britain abroad (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) and what it shares with all or almost all of the West European democracies, Israel, and Japan. He gives careful attention to which successful social and labor policies are transferable across nations and which are not.Rich Democracieswill interest both scholars and practitioners. It combines the perspectives of political economy (the interplay of markets and politics) and political sociology (the social bases of politics). It will be especially useful in courses on comparative political economy, comparative politics, European politics, public policy, political sociology, the welfare state, American government, advanced industrial societies, and industrial relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92833-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  5. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxiii-xxxii)
    HAROLD L. WILENSKY
  6. Part I Paths of Development of Rich Democracies

    • 1 CONVERGENCE THEORY
      (pp. 3-82)

      As we search for the shape of modern society, it helps to focus on these questions: As rich countries get richer do they become more alike in social structure, culture, and politics? Do the changes labeled industrialism overcome the differences among societies labeled authoritarian, totalitarian, and democratic? If there is convergence, what specific attributes of structure, culture, and politics are becoming more alike? If they arenotconverging, if rich countries are following different paths of development, what are the differences and do the differences remain stable or become larger? This chapter concentrates on evidence for convergence theory. Chapters 2,...

    • 2 TYPES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
      (pp. 83-130)

      To explain remaining differences among market-oriented rich democracies and the occasional areas of divergence mentioned in chapter 1, we must look to types of political economy. This chapter first delineates three types of national bargaining arrangements among major interest groups and government—democratic corporatism; corporatism-without-labor; and “least-corporatist,” least-consensual democracies that are most fragmented and decentralized—and measures of the types. This scheme captures variations in the structure and interplay of government, labor, professions, farm organizations, employer and trade associations, other interest groups, and political parties. I then address the argument that in the last two decades democratic corporatism has collapsed...

    • 3 MASS SOCIETY, PARTICIPATION, AND THE MASS MEDIA
      (pp. 131-185)

      So far this book has used the language of social structure—political, economic, and social organization—to describe relatively stable patterns of interaction that persist through generations. These patterns are highly institutionalized, that is, publicly recognized and sanctioned in contracts, law, and custom. This is one face of modern society—so structured that we hardly recognize the social controls that make us rise in the morning, commute to work (more or less on time), establish families, and act out the roles of worker, spouse, parent, sibling, son and daughter, neighbor, and sometimes citizen. In contrast is the other face of...

    • 4 THEORIES OF THE POSTINDUSTRIAL SOCIETY
      (pp. 186-208)

      Among the widely accepted myths about the shape of modern society is the idea that a new “postindustrial” order is emerging in which intellectuals, scientists, managers, and experts in command of theoretical knowledge dominate the political system, while service occupations (the “tertiary sector”) dominate employment and production, and “postmaterialist” values dominate the culture.¹ In other words, a vanguard of educated people, occupied in “health, education, research, and government” (Bell, 1973, p. 15), is already decisive in every modern political economy, and it is the carrier of the “cultural revolution.” Older issues are giving way to newer issues, in a major...

  7. Part II The Welfare State and Social Policy

    • 5 THE WELFARE STATE: Convergence and Divergence
      (pp. 211-251)

      The essence of the welfare state is government-protected minimum standards of income, nutrition, health and safety, education, and housing assured to every citizen as a social right, not as charity (Wilensky, 1965, p. xii). In the abstract this is an ideal embraced by both political leaders and the mass of people in every affluent country, but in practice and at high levels of development it becomes expensive enough and evokes enough ambivalence to become the center of political combat about taxes, spending, and the proper role of government in the economy. In public expenditures, the welfare state is about two-thirds...

    • 6 SECTOR SPENDING AND PROGRAM EMPHASIS
      (pp. 252-262)

      Among the notable national differences in welfare-state development are variations in the priorities given to particular programs and spending packages. Data available to describe program emphases are limited. For instance, ILO measures of means-tested benefits are useless; active labor-market policies until recently were little studied and no comparable spending data are available for 19 countries; family policies, especially as they developed in recent decades, are not adequately captured by the “family or child allowances” category of sector spending in standard sources. Still, we can learn something from an overview of broad government spending categories for pensions and disability insurance, health...

    • 7 TYPES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, PARTY IDEOLOGY, AND FAMILY POLICY: Contrasting Government Responses to a Common Problem
      (pp. 263-290)

      The changing structure and behavior of the modern family is a great subject for students of convergence theory. As we have seen in chapter 1, there have been very similar long-term changes in sex roles and family structure and functions as rich countries got richer. There is even a common political demand for a family policy to cope with the social problems posed by the transformation of the family. These similarities are rooted in continuing industrialization and its organizational and demographic correlates, especially increasing female labor-force participation, family breakup, and the aging of the population (see figure 1.1 for details...

    • 8 THE AMERICAN WELFARE MESS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE
      (pp. 291-343)

      In 1976 I wrote an article entitled “The Welfare Mess: Is it American, Who Needs It, Will It Last?” (1976b). The answers then were yes and no; demagogic politicians who use the welfare poor as convenient scapegoats; and yes, it will last. Sadly, almost nothing had changed by the late 1990s.

      In the intensity of political fuss about it, the welfare mess is peculiarly American, but in its broad outlines it is shared by several other countries that rely heavily on means-tested programs and have high rates of poverty (USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, and Switzerland).¹ The American welfare mess is...

    • 9 BUREAUCRATIC EFFICIENCY AND BLOAT
      (pp. 344-360)

      As we have seen, the expansion of the welfare state (especially the adoption of similar types of programs, rising levels of spending, increasingly comprehensive coverage, and even methods of financing) is strongly affected by continuing industrialization and its correlates—an aging population, expanding bureaucracies, changes in family structures, increased mobility and the push for equality, and the increased responsiveness of political elites to an enlarged and more vocal electorate. We have also seen that national differences in types of political economy (corporatist, corporatist-without-labor, and least corporatist), the power of mass-based political parties (Catholic and left), and the intensity of minority-group...

  8. Part III System Performance

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 361-362)

      In recent decades social scientists have paid too little attention to national variations in the real welfare outputs from a nation’s taxing, spending, and public policies. One reason is the difficulty of measuring cross-nationally such important system outputs as political legitimacy or “governability,” social consensus or social integration, many aspects of economic performance, equality, health, security and safety, and a benign, clean environment. These are dimensions of societal welfare that matter in the daily routines of individuals and the vitality of democracies. Part III examines national variations among rich democracies in each of these system outputs. I shall continue my...

    • 10 TAX-WELFARE BACKLASH: How to Tax, Spend, and Yet Keep Cool
      (pp. 363-397)

      This chapter tries to solve the puzzle of why, under recent conditions of slow growth, unemployment, periodic external shocks (exchange rate swings, oil shocks), and rising aspirations for equality and security, countries that share similar levels of taxing and spending for the welfare state vary greatly in the political trouble they generate. The most striking impression I have from my interviews with politicians, health and welfare officials, and experts in spending and taxing in 15 of our 19 countries is that since the mid-1960s the level of spending and taxing does not explain the political uproar that has accompanied taxing...

    • 11 ARE POLITICAL PARTIES DECLINING? An Analysis of National Variation in Dealignment
      (pp. 398-429)

      Students of comparative politics often consider the United States as the standout case of party-system decline. Political parties in America are eroding in their strength and unity; their hold over both politicians and voters is ever weaker; and their capacity to create a public agenda, mobilize voters around it, and enact legislation is diminishing. These developments, if they are indeed in process, are critical for the vitality of democracy. Weak and declining parties, even in a nonparliamentary presidential system like that of the United States, are a major cause of ineffective governments and the related decline of public confidence and...

    • 12 TYPES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, SPENDING, TAXING, AND ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE
      (pp. 430-493)

      Since the early 1970s there has been a spreading conviction among top policymakers in every rich democracy that we confront a crisis of the welfare state, an overload of social problems, and the rapid decline of the capacity to govern. Intellectuals, politicians, and bureaucrats alike have adopted the vocabulary of crisis. Only the phrasing differs, depending on their political mood, ideological persuasion, or disciplinary affiliation. In the 1990s, only in the U.S. did the declinists quiet down, to be replaced by equally strident triumphalists, as economic performance picked up.

      If you go to a conference on public policy where economists...

    • 13 THE GREAT AMERICAN JOB CREATION MACHINE IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE
      (pp. 494-506)

      In the ideological confrontation of the late 1970s and 1980s, “neoconservatives” and many mainstream economists asserted that the United States, despite its high rates of unemployment, had performed much better than the measures of unemployment, growth, and inflation used in chapter 12 suggested because it had created jobs at a faster rate. They said that America’s job creation record should be at the center of our attention as we evaluate its economic performance. Certainly, American presidents have repeatedly boasted about employment gains—especially Ronald Reagan 1980–88 and Bill Clinton 1992–2000 (President Bush could not crow about it because...

    • 14 RISK AND SAFETY: American Mayhem in Comparative Perspective
      (pp. 507-539)

      “Law ’n Order” is a slogan that has had increasing resonance in American politics. In the 1988 election, the Bush campaign launched the infamous Willie Horton/prisoner furlough ads by mail and TV. In a 30-second spot we saw a line of evil, dark-looking prisoners going through a revolving door, while the voiceover explained that Bush’s opponent, Governor Dukakis, had furloughed these rapists and murderers who naturally raped and murdered again. Mailed fliers attacking Dukakis pictured Willie Horton, a black in a Massachusetts prison for murder, who raped a woman and stabbed her fiancé while on furlough. By election day, the...

    • 15 TYPES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, REGULATORY REGIMES, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
      (pp. 540-576)

      To explain national differences in performance in reducing environmental threats for 19 countries would require data not now available. The available literature seldom tries to compare real outputs of environmental protection regimes. Almost all of the systematic comparative studies of two or more countries concentrate on differences and similarities in the policymaking or implementation process, not on success in improving the air, the water, or public health (e.g., Badaracco, 1985; Brickman, Jasanoff, and Ilgen, 1985; Heidenheimer, Heclo, and Adams, 1990; Lundqvist, 1980). Some suggestive data, however, are available for 14 of our countries in OECD studies of trends in air...

    • 16 HEALTH PERFORMANCE: Affluence, Political Economy, and Public Policy as Sources of Real Health
      (pp. 577-636)

      A nation’s health performance is difficult to measure and even more difficult to link to policy. In one of the earliest and most thorough cross-national evaluations of the effect of “health-care systems” in the literature, Odin Anderson (1972) compares the United States, Sweden, and England. He concludes that system contrasts in “input” are not connected in any direct way to any measurable output. Indeed, he abandons the attempt to link attributes of the system of medical care to customary indices of health and, in the end, argues that the main thing we can say with assurance is that Sweden is...

    • 17 GLOBALIZATION: Does It Subvert Job Security, Labor Standards, and the Welfare State?
      (pp. 637-674)

      Among the basic questions about the impact of “globalization” on public policy and human welfare, three are of great interest to both scholars and policymakers:

      1. Is the nation-state eroding as a unit of social-science analysis and as the center of political action?

      2. Do capital and labor flows across national boundaries threaten the social policies of the rich democracies—especially job protection and good earnings and welfare-state benefits?

      Because these questions assume that globalization gives countries with low labor costs and lean social policies a competitive advantage over their rivals, we must give an estimate regarding a third question:

      3. Leaving aside...

    • 18 AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS
      (pp. 675-720)

      My conclusions about specific similarities and differences among the universe of rich democracies can shed light on the theory of “American exceptionalism”—the idea developed by many political philosophers (e.g., Alexis de Tocqueville, 1963 [1835]; Louis Hartz, 1955) and social scientists (e.g., Werner Sombart, 1976 [1906]; Seymour Lipset, 1996; Byron Shafer, 1999) that the U.S. because of its unique culture, society, or polity is simply so different from other highly industrialized societies that it cannot borrow policies or patterns of behavior, however benign, from abroad. If, however, as I have shown, the U.S. in fact shares many aspects of culture,...

  9. APPENDIX A: METHODS
    (pp. 721-723)
  10. APPENDIX B: CONCEPTS AND MEASURES OF LEFT AND CATHOLIC PARTY POWER
    (pp. 724-727)
  11. APPENDIX C: SOCIAL SPENDING, GNP, TAX EXPENDITURES, AND HOUSING EXPENDITURES
    (pp. 728-732)
  12. APPENDIX D: SECTOR SPENDING CORRELATIONS
    (pp. 733-735)
  13. APPENDIX E: FAMILY POLICY
    (pp. 736-736)
  14. APPENDIX F: ESTIMATING RELIANCE ON MEANS TESTING
    (pp. 737-742)
  15. APPENDIX G: MEASURES OF ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE
    (pp. 743-765)
  16. APPENDIX H: MEASURES OF CENTRAL BANK AUTONOMY
    (pp. 766-767)
  17. APPENDIX I: MAYHEM INDEX, MOBILITY-MERITOCRACY INDEX, AND MINORITY-GROUP CLEAVAGES
    (pp. 768-772)
  18. APPENDIX J: PUBLIC EMPLOYEES
    (pp. 773-776)
  19. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 777-868)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 869-891)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 892-892)