IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Government Is Whose Problem?

  • Jon D. Wisman

This article addresses the political meaning of President Ronald Reagan's 1981 declaration that "government is the problem." Whereas, historically, the state had been used by elites to extract as much from producers as possible, with democratization of the franchise, the state became the sole instrument that could limit — or potentially end — this extraction. In principle, once control of the state is democratized by the ballot box, the fortunes of elites largely depend upon controlling ideology. In 1955, Simon Kuznets offered the highly influential conjecture that, while rising inequality characterizes early economic development, advanced development promises greater equality. However, rising inequality in most wealthy countries over the past four decades has challenged this hypothesis. What those who embraced Kuznets's conjecture failed to recognize is the dynamics by which the rich inevitably regain control over ideology — and thereby the state — with their far greater command over resources, education, and status. In the course of history, only the very severe crisis of the 1930s discredited the elites' ideology sufficiently to enable a sustained period of rising equality. However, by 1980, they had regained ideological ascendancy. This article examines how this struggle over ideology has unfolded in the US since the democratization of the franchise in the nineteenth century. It concludes with reflections on whether the current crisis holds promise of de-legitimating the elites' hold on power once more and of ushering in another period of rising equality.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://mesharpe.metapress.com/link.asp?target=contribution&id=H78W6R0264416365
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by M.E. Sharpe, Inc. in its journal Journal of Economic Issues.

Volume (Year): 47 (2013)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 911-938

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:47:y:2013:i:4:p:911-938
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.mesharpe.com/mall/results1.asp?acr=jei

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Jon D. Wisman, 2010. "Inequality, Social Respectability, Political Power and Environmental Devastation," Working Papers 2010-09 JEL classificatio, American University, Department of Economics.
  2. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 1998. "Why did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality and Growth in Historical Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 1797, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. José Gabriel Palma, 2009. "The revenge of the market on the rentiers," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(4), pages 829-869, July.
  4. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1991. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid- Century," NBER Working Papers 3817, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Lantican, Clarita P & Gladwin, Christina H & Seale, James L, Jr, 1996. "Income and Gender Inequalities in Asia: Testing Alternative Theories of Development," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 235-63, January.
  6. James Crotty, 2008. "Structural Causes of the Global Financial Crisis: A Critical Assessment of the ‘New Financial Architecture’," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2008-14, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  7. George Lodge, 2010. "The Need for Ideological Consciousness," Challenge, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 53(2), pages 76-89, March.
  8. Glaeser, Edward L. & Saks, Raven E., 2006. "Corruption in America," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1053-1072, August.
  9. Srinivasan, T.N., 1977. "Development, Poverty, and Basic Human Needs: Some Issues," Food Research Institute Studies, Stanford University, Food Research Institute, issue 02.
  10. Jon D. Wisman & James F. Smith, 2009. "Legitimating Inequality: Fooling Most of the People All of the Time," Working Papers 2009-25 JEL classificatio, American University, Department of Economics.
  11. Jon D. Wisman & Barton Baker, 2011. "Rising Inequality and the Financial Crises of 1929 and 2008," Working Papers 2011-01 JEL classificatio, American University, Department of Economics.
  12. Albert Rees, 1961. "Real Wages in Manufacturing, 1890-1914," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number rees61-1.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:47:y:2013:i:4:p:911-938. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ian Winship)

or (Chris Nguyen)

The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask Chris Nguyen to update the entry or send us the correct address

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.