The Even Bigger Wealth Effect

As I noted last Monday, higher income households tend to use more water, apply more fertilizer, etc. That is significant by itself but wealth and income patterns have even more profound effects on water (especially because of the state’s high income inequality). How?

Benjamin I. Page, Larry M. Bartels, and Jason Seawright, “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans” (Perspectives on Politics, March 2013, Figure 4.)

Benjamin I. Page, Larry M. Bartels, and Jason Seawright, “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans” (Perspectives on Politics, March 2013, Figure 4.)

It turns out that wealthy people have much different views on desirable policies than most Americans. As shown in the figure to the right, for example, they are much less fond of spending government funds on “environmental programs” than the general public. (Makes one think of a particular Florida governor and his drastic cuts in water management budgets.)

The economic elite find politicians to be remarkably responsive to their views. In contrast, the policy views of non-wealthy Americans matter hardly at all in public debates:

Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.

Clearly, when one holds constant net interest group alignments and the preferences of affluent Americans, it makes very little difference what the general public thinks. The probability of policy change is nearly the same (around 0.3) whether a tiny minority or a large majority of average citizens favor a proposed policy change…

Ordinary Floridians can get the water policy they want–but only if they want what the economic elite wants. That is a failure of democracy and only democratic reforms can fix water and many other broader problems in Florida.

[Or, as it has been called: The Doom Loop of Oligarchy.]

Back to top
Skip to content