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Political contest, policy control, and inequality in the United States

Mark Stelzner

Keywords: inequality; free riding; policy

In a democracy where the median income is substantially less than the average, why does the poor majority not implement a significant level of redistribution? Despite fears that democracy would empower the poor majority to such ends, constituents of below average income have a mixed record of utilizing democracy to ameliorate economic inequality in the United States. How do we understand this puzzle? Why does the poor majority not maintain a constant level of redistribution in a democracy? In this paper, I provide a game theoretic answer based on historical research, which is in accord with the broad trend in both policy and economic inequality in the United States.

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