Red Neck Socialism

How can you reconcile Americans’ obvious attachment to rent-seeking with their apparent distaste for income redistribution?

PRINCETON, NJ — When given a choice about how government should address the numerous economic difficulties facing today’s consumer, Americans overwhelmingly — by 84% to 13% — prefer that the government focus on improving overall economic conditions and the jobs situation in the United States as opposed to taking steps to distribute wealth more evenly among Americans.

That people in the government don’t have the vaguest idea of how to go about improving the “overall economic conditions and the jobs situation” probably wouldn’t satisfy them much.

How do you explain the simultaneous disapproval of redistribution with the reality that two purely redistributive programs, Social Security and Medicare, have substantial public support?

I’m afraid that the answer lies in a simple little bit of human nature: lots of people are willing to take a handout when it’s offered to them (especially when the handout is cloaked in a veneer of entitlement) but not nearly so many want to offer the handout. Elbert Hubbard, who founded an interesting corporate utopian community in East Aurora, New York, more than a century ago put it pretty well when he was asked whether he were a socialist. He responded “When 51% of the people want to give rather than get, I’ll be a socialist”.

Nowhere is this attitude better exemplified than in the state of Alaska, whose citizens possess the seemingly unlikely combination of a rugged individualist reluctance to have the government meddle in their affairs with a willingness to accept a nearly $2,000 per Alaskan handout from the Alaska Permanent Fund. I’ve heard this combination referred to as “red neck socialism” and it’s a very Jacksonian, very American attitude.

6 comments… add one
  • reader_iam Link

    This only indirectly relates, but last night I happened to stumble upon a movie I hadn’t seen in many years, “The Farmer’s Daughter” (1947) on AMC. In it, the main character, Katie, is talking with enough character about minimum wage, and she ends up (in quoting someone else, I think) saying something like, “What a living wage is depends on whether you’re receiving one or giving one.” I couldn’t find the exact quote by Googling, but that’s reasonably close, and in any case, I’m pretty sure it’s clear why this might jump to my mind upon reading your post.

  • I love The Farmer’s Daughter. Besides being a Loretta Young fan, I think it’s one of the half dozen or so best pictures on American politics.

  • Well, dammit, it’s the gummint! They got a magic wand or something, right?

  • Kara Altman Link

    Not sure where you’re getting you’re info on Alaskans, but, as a lifetime, born and raised Alaskan I would like you to know that you have nearly DOUBLED the amount we get for a PFD check – thanks, wish it was real!
    Over the last 25 years worth of data (2007 was not made available on the website) We have averaged $1035.30 – nowhere near the $2000 you are claiming. The biggest check we ever got was 1963.86 in the year 2000 – close, but no banana. And for 15 years of that 25, our checks have been less than $1000. It’s about enough to make Christmas nice for a poor family, vacations possible for a middle-class family, and the rich hardly notice. We do have a lot of websites that publish this info. I would suggest a checking of your facts next time you publish a story about someone else.

  • Christine Leyva Link

    Some scum tooth people in Juneau, Alaska have nothing better to do than to meddle in other people’s affairs and to lie about people they know nothing about! Some scum tooth people also have the nerve to actually express their distaste about others that use flouride in their water and do not brush their teeth, WHAT A JOKE! Stop criticizing others written expressed truth about the person that you really are….a complete slobby lazy redneck, selling weed, accepting free PFD monies, get off your LFA and get a real JOB! The truth is that your vacations are taken when you receive your PFD money, SCUMTOOTH!

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