07 April 2011

dispatches from comps, part 3.

"The important point is that the median voter, or the middle classes if one prefers, needs to be convinced to accept or tolerate income dispartities. Unless the median voter is actually persuaded to tolerate income inequality, the failure of officials to implement legal democratic commands exposes a democratic regime to charges of hypocrisy or corruption. And I would call that a problem of legitimacy." 
-John Ferejohn"Is Inequality a Threat to Democracy?", The Unsustainable American State
I have been chewing on this quote for days. That is the problem with The Unsustainable American State, by far my favorite book to have read during comps. I haven't finished it yet; the essays take me days to digest and do so many things to my interpretive schema that I have read the book in very measured doses over the course of several solo bar trips on nights when I decide I really want to treat myself. It ties together so many of the threads of scholarship that I've consumed over the past two months and offers a model of critical scholarship that must be considered by policy-makers and institution-builders. The insights in the book require meditation.

We can take nothing our government does for granted. Nothing about it is fixed; even the Constitution includes provisions for amendment. It has only the power we gie it. So we must ask: 
Who convinced us that pronounced income inequality is essential to democracy? And why are they still in government? Why do the laws protecting them still stand? 

More from Ferejohn:
"In modern society, income is produced by a complex combination of private and public actions, and inequalities are to some extent unintended consequences of billions of separate actions.... So, from the standpoint of regime legitimacy, it is an open question whether the relatively less regulated liberal world would undermine democracy any more than a regulated, and arguable more democratic, alternative."

food for thought.

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