Psycho-analyzing Alaskans

Found this bit from Noam Scheiber (on Chait’s blog) pretty intersting:

In a nutshell, the idea is that having to acknowledge your dependence on someone else’s money for your survival is demeaning–an admission of your own impotence–which makes you resentful toward the source of the largesse and reluctant to acknowledge that you actually need it. Imagine, say, living with your parents well into middle-age and you get the idea.

The state’s former Democratic governor Tony Knowles hints at this in the piece:

This sentiment baffles Tony Knowles, a long drink of a man who worked on the North Slope oil rigs before becoming the governor of Alaska in 1994 as a Democrat. He understands the frustration that comes with bumping into federal officials at each turn. But the trade-off is not so terrible, he notes, such as having the feds pay to put broadband in Alaskan villages.

“Nobody likes to have all their eggs in one basket, and so you do feel vulnerable,” he said.

Read this way, Alaskans may be anti-government precisely because they’re so dependent on it, not in spite of that fact.

Now, in reality, I suspect there’s a bit of both going on: Alaskans are a bit more anti-government than the average American by sociology and natural disposition, and they’re made all the more so by their defensiveness over being so reliant on it.

Interesting idea, but I’m pretty sure that data generally show that people who are more reliant on government are, in fact, more supportive of government.  That said, I don’t doubt that there’s a non insubstantial minority who’ve got a psychologically defensive ideology on the matter.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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