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Welfare Restructuring without Partisan Cooperation: The Role of Party Collusion in Blame Avoidance

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  • Martin Hering

Abstract

This article argues that welfare state restructuring, which is highly unpopular among voters, is politically feasible if government and opposition parties collude informally with each other. Contrary to key arguments made in the literature, restructuring does not require the formation of a formal grand coalition which diffuses blame from voters. Party collusion is a distinctive blame-avoiding strategy that differs not only from other party-oriented strategies such as building a grand coalition, but also from voter-oriented ones. By analyzing the politics of pension reform in Germany from 1995 to 2004, this article shows that party collusion, which emerges through repeated signaling and informal agreements, enables political parties to restructure the welfare state without running the risk of electoral failure. Finally, it suggests that collusion likely explains recent successes of Austrian, French and Italian governments in legislating unpopular welfare cutbacks.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Hering, 2005. "Welfare Restructuring without Partisan Cooperation: The Role of Party Collusion in Blame Avoidance," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 142, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:142
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    File URL: http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/sedap/p/sedap142.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Weaver, R. Kent, 1986. "The Politics of Blame Avoidance," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(04), pages 371-398, October.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    political parties; blame avoidance; collusion; welfare state; pension policy;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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