Political Science | Economic Inequality and American Democracy
Y200 | 10524 | Wright

Y200 Economic Inequality and American Democracy
Spring 2011

During the last three decades, there has been a massive redistribution
of income and wealth in America.  Economic inequality in the U.S. is
greater now than at any other point in in the last 100 years, and it
continues to escalate.  In addition, the degree of economic inequality
in the United States is much greater than in other western,
industrialized nations. The class is organized around a number of
important questions that are raised by this growing inequality.  One
is a basic question about how much inequality is desirable.  Another
is whether our concept of democracy, founded on the idea of political
equality, is sustainable when citizens have such markedly unequal
access to resources by which to influence elections and government
policies.  Another is the consequences of inequality, not just for the
losers, but for the society and polity as a whole.  That is, in what
ways does growing economic inequality affect the character of life,
political and otherwise, in the U.S.?  We shall examine these and
related questions by examining four major aspects of the American
political system: the theoretical foundations of ideas of equality,
political voice, governing, and the nature of policies that are
passed.  Students will write three short papers on various aspects of
economic and political inequality and there will be two midterm
examinations in addition to a final.