Fri 5 Apr, 2013 07:16 am
James Michael Curley, a four-time mayor of Boston, used wasteful redistribution to his poor Irish constituents and incendiary rhetoric to encourage richer citizens to emigrate from Boston, thereby shaping the electorate in his favor.
As a consequence, Boston stagnated, but Curley kept winning elections. We
present a model of using redistributive politics to shape the electorate, and
show that this model yields a number of predictions opposite from the more
standard frameworks of political competition, yet consistent with empirical
This is basically a mathematical analysis of how the demoKKKrat party operates, from Harvard University.
Ok, so put it in mathematical notation.
The study looks interesting but, from a cursory glance, it apparently attempts to prove way too much. For instance, the notion that Boston "did not thrive" during the first half of the 20th century is merely an assumption. The authors provide very little evidence to support that statement. Indeed, the article includes evidence to contradict that assumption. For instance, as the article points out, the exodus of the wealthy to the suburbs began even before Curley first took office, and the fact that Boston didn't grow as fast as the rest of the state or the nation can be ascribed to what the authors admit is the city's small size (St. Louis, another small city, suffered the same problem -- it grew only 24% from 1910 to 1950).
Likewise, the study cherry picks examples from other cities. For instance, instead of comparing Boston under Curley to Chicago under the first mayor Daley, the study's authors compare Detroit under Coleman Young to Chicago under Harold Washington. One would think that the former comparison would be more apt - powerful Irish-American mayors who dispensed favors to their ethnic constituencies. Instead, the comparison between Young and Washington is flawed because Washington didn't have enough political support or time in office to effect any major changes.
Furthermore, the notion that Young drove whites out of Detroit in order to get elected has things backwards. Whites didn't leave Detroit because Young got elected, Young got elected because whites left Detroit. White flight started well before Young took office and was accelerated by the 1967 riots. While in office, Young may have favored policies that helped black neighborhoods over white neighborhoods, but he was simply doing what any politician would do - reward his constituency. That may have contributed to white flight, but it's unlikely that anything Young could have done at that point would have arrested that trend. That train, in other words, had already left the station.