According to Lindbloom (R18) the citizens of democratic societies with market economies are caught in a vice of sorts. If they wish to expand their rights as citizens, they must often constrain their property rights (and vice versa). So, for instance, a “right to breath clean air” may involve constraining the rights of power companies to burn coal as they choose. When one also considers the “automatic punishing recoil” that he argues is built into the operation of the market – a mechanism that, in his view, works to “imprison” policy making – the prospects for expanding citizenship rights would appear very dim indeed.
While advanced industrial society may favor “democracy” for the reasons that Nolan and Lenski discuss, it appears to Lindbloom not to favor the development of what he would describe as a more fully developed democracy, a democracy that is constructed around an expanding set of citizenship rights and one in which more of the forces that fundamentally affect our lives are brought under democratic political control. At the point at which the aims of the citizenry begin to come up against the freedoms of business, the expansion of citizenship rights appears bound to stop. Lindbloom presents, then, a rather stark picture of the prospects for the future of the democratic trend that Nolan and Lenski document. He argues that there are hard limits to our ability to “pursue happiness” through the mechanism of politics and he strongly implies that we are just about at those limits.
However, when broaden our view beyond the United States to include other rich societies with market economies and democratic political systems, we find a great deal of variation in how much governments actually spend to provide citizenship rights and a high degree of variation in how far citizenship rights themselves have been extended (as detailed in mini lecture 20-The Welfare State). Is the market acting as a prison in these societies? If so, this should express itself, thanks to the “punishment mechanism,” in especially poor economic performance (e.g., high unemployment, low rates of economic growth, capital flight, etc.). Do we see this? If not, how is it that these societies have broken out of the “market prison?” Or is LIndbloom simply wrong? Are there ways of expanding citizenship rights that don’t involve a “punishing recoil” from business, allowing for expanding citizenship rights and good economic performance?
1) Use the discussion space provided to discuss and debate Lindbloom’s argument in light of what we know about the wide range of variation in spending on the welfare state and in the extension of citizenship rights across the rich world (again, see mini lecture 20-The Welfare State).
2) Collectively compose and edit a paragraph or two of no more than 250 words that reconciles Lindbloom’s argument with what we know about the welfare state in rich countries. Is the market acting as a prison in all rich societies? If so, explain. If not, explain. Appoint one member of your group to submit your answer here, being sure to indicate which discussion group you are speaking for (e.g., “Discussion Group 1’s Response”).