Friday, February 10, 2006

American Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality

Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy
Equal political voice and democratically responsive government are widely cherished American ideals. Indeed, the United States is vigorously promoting democracy abroad. Yet, what is happening to democracy at home? Our country’s ideals of equal citizenship and responsive government may be under growing threat in an era of persistent and rising inequalities. Disparities of income, wealth, and access to opportunity are growing more sharply in the United States than in many other nations, and gaps between races and ethnic groups persist. Progress toward realizing American ideals of democracy may have stalled, and in some arenas reversed.

We have reached this conclusion as members of the Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy formed under the auspices of the 14,000-member American Political Science Association. As one of several task forces formed to enhance the public relevance of political science, our Task Force was charged to review and assess the best current scholarship about the health and functioning of U.S. democracy in a time of rising inequality. We have carefully surveyed the evidence about three important, interlinked areas of concern: citizen participation, government responsiveness, and patterns of public policy-making and their consequences. We speak for ourselves and not officially for the American Political Science Association. Our conclusions are meant to provoke discussion and debate, not only in professional circles but also in the broader public. We have done our work as experts, paying close attention to data and evidence in all of its ambiguity.1 Yet we also speak as concerned citizens of American democracy.

Full-text available, click here.

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