Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Why the rich and the poor value freedom and equality differently

Popov, Vladimir (2023): Why the rich and the poor value freedom and equality differently.

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This paper aims at providing additional explanations of the shift in electoral preferences studied by Piketty (2018) – in the post-war period rich and educated voters in Western countries shifted from right-oriented to left-oriented political parties.

It is argued that high income individuals develop leftist views (in favor of redistribution, i.e. with preferences for equality relative to freedom), when they feel that income inequalities pose a danger to social stability and trust the government to carry out redistribution measures. The World Value Survey (WVS) data allow to measure the freedom versus equality preferences of the rich and poor respondents. It turns out that in countries with high income and wealth inequalities, high murder rate and high trust in the government, the rich tend to have more pro-equality and less pro-freedom preferences. The pattern for the poor respondents is similar, but less pronounced than for the rich.

There are two groups of countries/territories, where the rich respondents are more pro-equality and less pro-freedom oriented than the poor – high inequalities and murder rates group (mostly Latin America, where the trust to the government is low) and high trust to the government group (mostly East Asia and Middle East and North Africa, where inequalities and murder rates are low). The latter group may constitute a case of good equilibrium with the long term political stability, whereas the former group is better characterized as moving from bad to good equilibrium.

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