The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Comparative Speaker Series- Nate Breznau (Univ of Bremen)

Positive Returns to the Welfare State and the Public

Mon, April 1, 2019 | BAT 5.108

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

The theory of increasing returns suggests institutional feedback between opinion and policy whereby each exerts a positive influence on the other leading to increasing welfare state provision. The mechanisms underlying this theory can also explain declining returns as welfare states follow various retrenchment trajectories. This suggests a theory of positive returns where the public and social welfare policy positively reinforce each other regardless of direction (increasing, decreasing or stable). This paper outlines this theory and formal models derived from it. Taking a model of simultaneous feedback this paper describes steps to populate the model with variables and conduct statistical tests of the positive returns predictions using structural equation modeling. The paper also describes an alternative test of democratic deconsolidation, or at least the idea that public opinion matters less for social policy in an age of hyper-spending on mass media persuasion and politics. The results support a theory of positive returns applicable to both the pre and post liberalization and retrenchment phases of welfare states. Other factors in the opinion-policy process and the limitations of this theory and the methods supporting it are discussed.   

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