Academic journal article Development and Society

Who Is Willing to Pay More Taxes for Welfare? Focusing on the Effects of Diverse Types of Trust in South Korea and Taiwan *

Academic journal article Development and Society

Who Is Willing to Pay More Taxes for Welfare? Focusing on the Effects of Diverse Types of Trust in South Korea and Taiwan *

Article excerpt


South Korea (hereafter, Korea) and Taiwan share an economic, political, social and developmental history, and are considered as archetypal East Asian welfare states (Goodman and Peng 1996; Gough 2004; Kwon and Holliday 2007), which does not fit well Esping-Andersen's description of three groups of Western welfare states (Esping-Andersen 1990). Whether or not Korea and Taiwan are commonly referenced as East Asian welfare states, they show distinctly similar characteristics when compared to Western welfare states (Choi 2012; Dostal 2010; Hong 2014; Ku and Jones Finer 2007).

Welfare politics has received much attention since democratization in the late 1980s began facilitating welfare expansion in Korea and Taiwan. In the process of democratization, political party competition, growth of associational networks in civil society, and pro-welfare alliances among social organizations, including labor unions and civic organizations, have been emphasized as facilitating conditions and/or actors for welfare expansion in Korea and Taiwan (Lee 2012; Peng 2004; Peng and Wong 2008; Wong 2004; Woo 2011; Yang 2013). What remains unclear and what has not yet attracted much attention is who supports welfare expansion in Korea and Taiwan. In emerging welfare states such as Korea and Taiwan, are solidaristic values such as trust positively related to welfare expansion?

This study compares Korea and Taiwan with respect to the effect of trust on people's support for welfare expansion. A comparison of these two East Asian countries that share common traits shed lights on their differences, and it allows us to identify cross-national variations in people's attitudes toward the welfare state when influenced by trust as social capital. Particularly in these two countries, pro-welfare political alliances are at an early stage of development compared to those in Western countries. Consequently, public support for welfare policies exhibits relatively weak distinctions across classes, unlike other developed countries. Thus, it is crucial to investigate beyond the social cleavage model in order to seek a more sophisticated explanation for what truly enhances solidaristic attitudes towards public policies, especially welfare policies. To answer simply, we suggest that trust is the appropriate variable in building social solidarity for supporting welfare policies.

Trust, as one component of social capital, is expected to have a positive influence on attitudes toward the welfare state. Essentially, trust is believed to solve collective action problems by enhancing cooperative actions, as emphasized by social capital theory (Putnam 1993; Rothstein 2011). Then, we should consider the more complicated ways in which trust affects attitudes toward welfare support.

First, when examining the relationship between trust and attitudes toward welfare, attention needs to be paid to the different types of trust, including interpersonal trust, (trust in others, trust in a familiar or unfamiliar circle of people), and institutional trust. Each type of trust affects attitudes toward support for the welfare state in different ways.

Second, a focus on attitudes toward tax increases is also useful. There are many ways to measure welfare attitudes; however, many of us have not paid much attention to the distinctions among the different welfare attitudes. For example, we can distinguish the normative from the practical dimension of welfare attitudes. Even when individuals normatively support the role of government in providing welfare, they may not be willing to pay more taxes for welfare services because they do not trust other people or the government. Our critical suggestion is that the practical dimension of support, "paying more taxes," is more appropriate when we seek to understand the importance of trust with respect to welfare attitudes. Hence, "paying more taxes" is a typical example of a collective action problem, and therefore requires trust among citizens themselves as well as between those citizens and the government. …

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