Picking up on Nicholas Gruens posting of 4 March on Bowles and Gintis essay (“Is equality passe?”), I notice that B and G point to opinion survey evidence that Americans, while hating welfare, support many redistribution measures which are consistent with reciprocity norms, including employee “ownership of their workplaces”, improved educational opportunity, well targeted policies to support home ownership and measures to promote employment opportunities and earnings such as wage subsidies and retraining.
As you know, I have argued in my various papers that strong reciprocity is as much a feature of Australian welfare morality as it is in the USA. Like Americans, most Australians are cynical of passive welfare but strongly support opportunity-levelling measures of the kind outlined above. In one of my papers I point to surveys showing lukewarm support for closing the gap between rich and poor and strong support for “a hard line on responsibilities of unemployed people to actively seek work”. Yet the ideal of equality of opportunity is rated very highly by Australians and they support policies which make it easier for people, through their own efforts, to move up the social ladder.
So perhaps Australians are not that much different from Americans after all?
There is a clear message for Rudd: implement tough welfare to work policies but invest in programs which will facilitate entry into the work force, starting very early in the life cycle.