The religious support for neoliberalism?

Over at TMP Cafe there is a discussiona bout Red State, Blue State.  This post has an interesting snippet:

…But before we grab on to such a U.S.-centric explanation, it is worth noting that John Huber and Piero Stanig have compiled data showing that poor religious voters in Europe are more likely than low-income secular voters to support parties promoting economically liberal policies (in the European sense of the term). So any explanation of the phenomenon ought to have a passport.


Recently there has been a lot of theorizing among political scientists and economists as to why religious belief or practice might systematically lead to greater support for the economic agenda of the Right.

In an important study, Ken Scheve and David Stasavage show that religiosity is associated with lower levels of social spending on a cross-national basis and that religious voters are consistently less like to support social spending than the non-religious across advanced democracies. Their explanation for these findings holds that religiosity directly affects preferences for social insurance. Drawing on literature in psychology, Scheve and Stasavage argue that religiosity reduces the “psychic costs” that the experience of economic shocks such as unemployment or illness entails. Because religious belief serves as a substitute to social insurance, it reduces the demand for social spending.

Similarly, Roland Benabou and Jean Tirole argue that religious beliefs tying rewards in the after-life to industriousness on Earth induce lower support for redistribution. In their model, religious voters oppose redistribution because non-believers also benefit and because it dulls their own incentives to work hard.

Religious adherence may not only have a psychological or normative affect on redistributive preferences. Huber and Stanig argue that religious organizations provide direct material substitutes for state provided redistribution and social insurance.

A good friend of mine (who is far Left for what it’s worth) believes that the arrow of causality can also work so that socialist policies result in a diminishing of the public role of religious institutions by substituting for the functional roles that they play.

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5 Responses to The religious support for neoliberalism?

  1. Pingback: Secular Right » The religious support for neoliberalism? | VandeNikhiliam

  2. Chris says:

    In their model, religious voters oppose redistribution because non-believers also benefit and because it dulls their own incentives to work hard.

    And, in some cases, because economic success and failure on earth are dealt out by God’s will and who are we mortals to interfere?

    This is the same line of logic that would lead to not curing curable diseases, because after all, God created them too, but most believers don’t actually go *that* far.

  3. I think that some of the attitude by religious believers towards welfare and government social programs may also be shaped by the fact that many such believers are parts of religious communities (churches, mosques, synagogues, temples) and organizations (religious denomiantions) that provide a good deal of social service support outside of the ambit of government. Speaking anecdotally, several years ago I knew a Mormon family (mom, dad and six kids) where the parents were both students finishing up graduate programs. The Mormon family lived in the same housing complex that I did, and once a week their Mormon bishop drove up to their house in a pick-up truck with bags and bags of groceries in the back. The Mormon bishop would unload the groceries and hand them off to the husband, who would take them inside. Food for the week for a needy family of eight, all provided by the local Mormon church. Who needs welfare?

    So, while I have little doubt that a sense of divine Providence and provision probably does provide psychological solice to religious believers in the face of economic uncertainty, I also know that in many instances such religious believers are receiving concrete support from their faith communities. As the American founders understood, churches and other religious institutions are powerful mediating institutions that serve to provide social and material support for many, many people.

  4. Miles White says:

    Another line if logic is based upon Russell Kirks Christian views. That as men, we are all original sinners and are naturally imperfect. Thus man cannot be trusted to centralize power within institutions instead preferring to decentralize them to a more local level to take care of those responsibilities.

  5. TGGP says:

    I already posted it there in a comment, but here’s another paper on why the religious are economically conservative in countries without an established church:

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