Why the United States develop a smaller welfare state and a smaller military.

The United States took advantage of the ongoing war in Europe to emerge as a hybrid economy that has not been displaced to date. However, the country’s fortune has elicited scholarly studies on the possible causes of such tremendous success. In the modern world, the United States has made unrivalled socio-economic and political strides that have made it a global envy. Many political analysts, economists, and other scholars have made attempts to understand the metamorphosis of America from a second tier economy to global superpower between 19th and 20th century.Rauchway,Eric in his book, Blessed among nations : how the world made America, explores the underlying socio-economic and political factors that enabled the US to develop a smaller welfare state and a smaller military than other rich nations.

The geopolitical position of the United States played a critical role in its welfare size. While the war ravaged the better part of Europe, the United States had begun enjoying significant influx of credit and human capital[1]. The fear of outsiders from Europe initiated capital market reorganization that compelled the US to tighten its economic model. As Rauchway put it, the combined capital credit and labor supply in the post-World War I boosted American socio-economic system that facilitated it to overtake Europe with a small state welfare. The concept of ethnic heterogeneity in the US is another factor that contributed to its ability to build such a smaller military than the Rich European nations. The argument of Rauchway is rather insightful into the underlying economic theories, social strategies, and political institutions that put America where it is today.

America portrayed a political deviation from the European countries in terms of its institutional framework. In the post-civil war period, America emphasized majoritarian political representation that was the opposite of widely proportional representation system in Europe. In most cases, proportional representation promotes stronger groups that can shake government and influence policy making. In that regard, the post-civil war constitution emphasized a clustered institutional framework that suppressed possible political extremism and enhance checks and balances on all arms of government. It is worth to note that the US congress played a key role in enhancing capitalist campaign that put the government on constant accountability to the people. According to Rauchways, the majoritarian political institution that US put in place effectively helped it to secure a small state welfare .While European countries were wealthy, their constitutions were mostly bordering communism with a greater development in social welfare leading to pro-socialist population. Weaker labor unions were a result of the adopted political institution and efficiency shifted upwards with a resultant economic revolution[2]. On the size of military, the vast size of the US meant that suppressing protests would be easy and just proportionate army was enough. Besides, any form of protest in one state would rarely affect other states. Besides, the US had not encountered war with other countries in its soil and therefore had limited expenditure on social issues. American expansive west provided alternative migratory place that relieved Eastern cities of congestion and significantly diluted possible unrests. The European nations did possess such an opportunity.

In post-civil war era, America experienced massive immigration besides an already existing African Americans, whites, and Latino races. According Rauchway, Racial mixture was more dominant in the US than the European nations. Any racial heterogeneous state tends to limit redistribution hence leading to constricted welfare. In that regard, America took advantage of its ethnic pluralism to emphasize income distribution more than social welfare expenditure. Most of the European nations are almost racially homogeneous necessitating expansive social welfare scheme. In that regard, coupled with the American dream, hard work, commitment, and creativity remained the cornerstone of US workforce, leading to an enormous economic boost. The welfare politics dominated Europe while America engaged its workforce on intense economic productivity on a policy of individual effort. The racial diversity also meant that the US had the challenge to substitute welfare spending with improved minimum wage. As such, the spirit of hard work, pursuit of American dream and vibrant economy characterized American population[3]. Stronger social welfare groups that had significant influence in government spending among European nations were responsible for a larger state welfare size. After the post-civil war, the US defense forces were few as attention was given more to industrialization with the immigrant labor. Racial fragmentation bred a strong political composition that was focused on performance, national economic growth, and realization of individual dreams. Social welfare was frustrated by the racial discrimination that Southern states exercised against the whites.

With the onset of globalization in 1900s, United States seized the opportunity to put all its efforts in diverse industrial activities. At that time, Europe was still recovering from the ravages of world war. The lessons from civil war, coupled with redefined economic direction on platform of globalization meant that US froze its State welfare size and focus on income per capita. The great depression of 1920s provided the United States with an economic leverage to turnaround its development. In fact, as the European nations feared devastating effect of the crisis, US seized the chance to receive capital that helped it to pull a massive industrialization outcome. The country had learnt of its mistakes after the civil war and revitalized its political institutions, economic policies and social reforms to effect change. Globalization meant that capitalism took control of productivity which in turn fuelled creativity and further boosted the emergence of the US as a super power[4]. It was the ability of the US to use its geopolitics, timing, and immigrant labor that enhanced its economic outburst.

Globalization also promoted a democratic system that did not require a large military size as prospects of civil protests were dim. Besides, the shift in global attention towards US for trade deals, imports, and political support deepened the culture of capitalism and effectively stifled socialism. A blend of post-civil war factor, World war I, and others collectively enabled the US to emerge from economic limbo and become a global economic powerhouse.

[1] Rauchway, Eric. Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007.p.31


[2] Ibid,p.42

[3] Rauchway, Eric. Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007.p.52

[4] Ibid,p.79

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