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Democracy and Economic Inequality

Can they exist at the same time???
Functionalism vs. Conflict Perspective

Some Current Information
• Within a decade $1 out of every $5 spent in the U.S. economy will go for health care
(USA Today, February 21, 2006)

• 2007 budget proposal would cut the Commodity Supplemental Food Program – food assistance to 420,000 low income seniors in an average month. Savings per month – less than $20/person/month
(Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, February 14, 2006)

• Budget would cut expenditures for non-defense discretionary programs by $125 billion – next 5 years
– Preventative Care Block Grant – preventative health services – underserved populations – TRIO Talent Search program – disad. high school students finish H.S. and go to college – Community Services Block Grant – services to low income families – $1 billion (over 5 years) – child care funding for low and moderate income families

• $79 billion increase over 5 years in defense and homeland-security spending (not including Iraq and Afghanistan) • Tax Cuts = $285 billion (5 years) $1.7 trillion (10 years)
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, February 14, 2006)

Can Justice be Achieved with Economic Inequality? Can democracy truly exist if we live in a society of haves and have nots? Is it the responsibility of citizens to take an active role in changing the economic system, or should it be left to the the natural forces of capitalism?

Members of the Power Elite – how they rule…
• The Constitution
– Role of government – it “ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority” – James Madison – Electoral college You Call This a – Commerce clause Democracy by Paul – Contract clause


Members of the Power Elite – how they rule…
• Corporations
– 1886 – given rights as a person – Expanded power and size
• 52 of the 100 largest economies in the world are corporations

Members of the Power Elite – how they rule…
• The Courts
– Interpret the law – not necessarily justice – Prohibited labor from strikes, picketts, etc… – Found favor with business at the expense of workers (cancelling contracts, etc…) – Found constitutional – issues of eminent domain

How Does All of this Impact Democracy Today?

Herbert Spencer
•Social Darwinism - individual competition = “the law of life” •"Society advances where its fittest members are allowed to assert their fitness with the least hindrance.“ •unfit should "not be prevented from dying out." •Spencer believed that individuals could genetically pass on their learned characteristics to their children. •the fittest persons inherited such qualities as industriousness, frugality, the desire to own property, and the ability to accumulate wealth. The unfit inherited laziness, stupidity, and immorality. •population of unfit people would slowly decline. •Government should not take any actions to prevent this from happening.

Karl Marx
•Bourgeoisie – owners of capital •Proletariat – workers •Alienation •Class Conflict - proletariat would overthrow the bourgeoisie and institute a new classless system •Only true representation of the people could exist by those not actively exploiting their labor •Dictatorship of the proletariat would provide a temporary means to this end

Dictatorship of the Proletariat
"Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat." - Karl Marx,

The dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the organization of the vanguard of the oppressed as the ruling class for the purpose of suppressing the oppressors, cannot result merely in an expansion of democracy. Simultaneously with an immense expansion of democracy, which for the first time becomes democracy for the poor, democracy for the people, and not democracy for the moneybags, the dictatorship of the proletariat imposes a series of restrictions on the freedom of the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists. We must suppress them in order to free humanity from wage slavery, their resistance must be crushed by force; it is clear that there is no freedom and no democracy where there is suppression and where there is violence." - V.I. Lenin

Who do you tend to agree with? Marx of Spencer…