Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date




Despite the broad reach of the American welfare state, Americans continue to have conflicted and contradictory attitudes about the role of the state in mediating economic equality through both taxation and social spending. This chapter identifies several key themes that help explain these contradictions. Specifically, information about taxes and spending is complex and hard to understand, cognitive biases and limitations hamper people’s ability to process information in a way that is always consistent, and affective and symbolic factors influence social attitudes about taxes and government benefits. This chapter explores the implications of these insights for public policy, including the possibility of designing tax and welfare institutions to counteract cognitive bias and raising public awareness by advertising the benefits of popular government programs. It also examines the recurring phenomenon of grassroots mobilization of American voters around issues of taxes and spending, and contrasts the Tea Party movement with Occupy Wall Street.


Health Law and Policy | Law | Social Welfare Law