Category Archives: Inequality vs Democracy

Race, Public Opinion, and the Fight Over Reparations in the Age of Obama

10525869_10101202330137563_2072457776631529863_nOn November 8, 2015, Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor of Public Policy, moderated a discussion between Michael C. Dawson, the John D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago, and Walter Johnson, the Winthrop Professor of History at Harvard University. The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation sponsored the event as part of the Race and American Politics seminar series. The discussion between the two professors primarily examines the common objections to reparations for the African enslavement in the United States. This post presents the main arguments for and against reparations as presented by Professors Dawson and Johnson.

The Ash Center’s Race and American Politics Series is a multidisciplinary series of seminars and round-table conversations led by Leah Wright Rigueur. Co-sponsored by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, the series features academic, practitioner, and journalistic perspectives from across the nation on the most pressing political and social issues related to race in the United States. Read other posts covering the Race and American Politics seminar series here.

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Students’ UK Discussion Group: Primary and Secondary Education

amelia pThis post, written by PhD student Amelia Peterson, recaps the second meeting of a new UK discussion group among British students and anglophiles from across Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The group is convening in spring 2016 on a weekly basis to discuss the most difficult and pressing issues facing the UK today–bridging disciplines to present viable policy solutions. The discussion highlighted below explored educational disparities in the UK—their relationship to economic inequality, the future value of education as a public good, and the changing role both of technology and of teachers. The Ash Center is delighted to support student initiatives like the UK discussion group as well as other opportunities to contribute to public discourse on both the challenges to democratic governance and promising solutions. Read other posts in the UK discussion group series. Continue reading

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Students’ UK Discussion Group: Jobs and Inequality

uk FLAGThis post, written by recent HKS alum Anna Stansbury with assistance from current HKS student Nyasha Weinberg, recaps the inaugural meeting of a new UK discussion group among British students and anglophiles from across Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The group is convening in Spring 2016 on a weekly basis to discuss the most difficult and pressing issues facing the UK today–bridging disciplines to present viable policy solutions. The discussion below explored whether the current toolkit of policy options is sufficient to address the challenges of jobs and inequality, or do we need more radical options? The Ash Center is delighted to support student initiatives like the UK discussion group as well as other opportunities to contribute to public discourse on both the challenges to democratic governance and promising solutions. Read other posts in the UK discussion group series.

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America’s Struggle for Voting Rights

Give us the ballotIn October 2015, the Ash Center hosted the inaugural session of its Race and American Politics Seminar Series featuring an author’s talk with The Nation’s Ari Berman. Berman discussed his new book Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America with Lani Guinier, the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and chair of the Race and American Politics Seminar Series, and Alex Keyssar, Professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

The Ash Center’s Race and American Politics Series is a multidisciplinary series of seminars and round-table conversations led by Leah Wright Rigueur. Co-sponsored by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, the series features academic, practitioner, and journalistic perspectives from across the nation on the most pressing political and social issues related to race in the United States. See other events and read more about the series here.

Read posts about other events in this seminar series here.

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Ash Center’s 10th Anniversary Series Provides Direction for the Next Ten Years

200x200logoFBshareIn May, the Ash Center concluded its Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series with presentations by the 2015 Innovations in American Government Award finalists. Local government officials, students, and scholars gathered with the Innovation Award finalists for a nuts and bolts conversation on fostering innovation in government. This model of conversation—one that brings together people and ideas unlikely to otherwise connect, in an environment that encourages candid conversation on important yet difficult issues, with an emphasis on finding a way forward—was a true reflection of the Challenges to Democracy series. This post explores some of the series’ highlights and how it will carry forth in the Ash Center’s upcoming work. Read more about all events in the series including associated multimedia such as podcasts, media coverage, photos, and video recordings.
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First Chapter: Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy by Darryl Pinckney

blackballedBelow is an excerpt from the introduction to Darryl Pinckney’s 2014 book, Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy. On November 3, 2014, Pinckney spoke about Blackballed at the Ash Center as part of its Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series.

Blackballed is a masterfully-crafted study of American democracy and the changing role of the black vote within it, from Reconstruction to the election of Barack Obama. It is insightful, personal, informative, and remarkably timely. The book not only speaks to current questions about race within the social and political arenas, but to broader issues of the health and legitimacy of a democracy in which some voices are kept from entering the dialogue. Blackballed is one of those special works that effortlessly transports readers to another time while subtly drawing thematic ties to the present day. One leaves the experience not only appreciating the work done by generations past, but contemplating one’s own role in the historical arc. Continue reading

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Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: The Role of Film in Fighting Displacement

This post is the eighth in a month-long series of blog postings on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of American democracy, and in particular local democracy in the United States. The series, edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, is part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, a two-year public dialogue inviting leaders in thought and practice to name our greatest challenges and explore promising solutions.

andrew headshotIn this post, we invite documentary filmmaker Andrew J. Padilla to share the issues that motivate his filmmaking and what his films El Barrio Tours: Gentrification in East Harlem and El Barrio Tours: Gentrification USA, can tell us about the health of American democracy. In his piece Padilla describes his efforts as a filmmaker to give voice to communities who very often are the voiceless objects of urban policy decisions. He also reflects on how he and fellow filmmakers can engage communities in political awakening, coalition building, and mobilizing action toward positive change. Continue reading

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Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: Using Film to Raise the Issue of Housing Affordability

This post is the seventh in a month-long series of blog postings on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of American democracy, and in particular local democracy in the United States. The series, edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, is part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, a two-year public dialogue inviting leaders in thought and practice to name our greatest challenges and explore promising solutions.

KingWilliamsIn this post, we invite documentary filmmaker King Williams to share the issues that motivate his filmmaking and what his film, The Atlanta Way, can tell us about the health of American democracy. In his piece Williams describes his efforts as a filmmaker to give voice to communities who very often are the voiceless objects of urban policy decisions. He also reflects on how he and fellow filmmakers can engage communities in political awakening, coalition building, and mobilizing action toward positive change. Continue reading

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The Future of Democracy in the Arab World: Reform Versus Revolution

tarekThis post was originally published by the Harvard Kennedy School on June 2, 2015. Doug Gavel interviews the Ash Center’s Tarek Masoud, Sultan of Oman Associate Professor of International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School. Professor Masoud’s research focuses on the role of religion in the Muslim world’s political development. He is the author of Counting Islam: Religion, Class, and Elections in Egypt (Cambridge University Press, 2014), the co-author of The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform (Oxford University Press, 2015), as well as of several articles and book chapters. “I think that you should never bet against the prospects for evolution towards something better in the Middle East,” Masoud says. “In fact, I wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t think there was not potential within the Arab region for more accountable government that was more responsive to its citizens.”
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Harvard Kennedy School Students Tackle the Future of Policing

Policing photoThis post by HKS student Pamela Lachman recounts a recent series of events she and other students organized at Harvard Kennedy School. Experts came together with 100+ members of the HKS community in facilitated conversations with the aim of preparing recommendations for President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Discussions focused on examining the role of police in a democratic society and identifying tangible solutions to improving police/community relations.

On February 5, 2015, Chair of the President’s Task Force, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, met with student organizers before participating in a panel discussion that the Ash Center co-hosted with the JFK Jr. Forum, the Malcolm Weiner Center for Social Policy, and the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management. Embedded below is a video recording of the Forum event, featuring Ramsey as well as Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Professor Phillip Goff, and HKS Dean David Ellwood. Continue reading

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My Challenges: Gar Alperovitz, Author of ‘What Then Must We Do,’ Wants Us to Get Serious about System Change

garAsked to diagnose the health of American democracy, Gar Alperovitz calls for more debate about our economic and political systems—one that links real-world experience and activism to a theory of politics in historical change. Continue reading

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Who Calls the Shots? Who Really Rules? New Research on Influence in American Policy

By Richa Mishra

Justice Louis Brandeis once stated, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” More recently, humorist Fran Lebowitz noted, “In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.” A new study shows that both, perhaps, were right: the wealthiest Americans “generally get their way” on issues that the average citizen disagrees with, from tax reform and corporate regulation to abortion. Continue reading

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Frontiers of Democracy Research: The Gettysburg Project

This post highlights a new initiative exploring the decline of public engagement and ways that we might improve the scope, diversity and impact of organizing and mobilization of the public. Lead faculty Marshall Ganz and Archon Fung first introduced students to their new initiative, The Gettysburg Project, in 2013. This post captures that introductory discussion for an occasional series on the blog exploring the frontiers of research on democratic governance. The series highlights the work of the Ash Center’s faculty and Democracy Fellows whose research illuminates aspects of democratic governance, with a focus on innovations in public participation and on urgent substantive policy or social problems related to democratic governance. Continue reading

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In the News: What’s Gone Wrong with Democracy?

Check out this in-depth essay from The Economist on democracy across the globe. “Democracy was the most successful political idea of the 20th century,” they write. “Why has it run into trouble, and what can be done to revive it?” Below are a few excerpts. Continue reading

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First Chapter: Affluence and Influence by Martin Gilens

Below is an excerpt from the first chapter of Martin Gilens’ 2012 book, Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America. One of the most exciting political scientists in the country, Gilens spoke at the Challenges to Democracy launch event, an October 3 panel discussion moderated by WBUR and NPR’s On Point host Tom Ashbrook on the threat economic inequality poses to the health of American democracy. This post is part of an occasional series highlighting the first chapters of recent books by speakers and participants in the Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series. Continue reading

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Inequality Is a Threat to American Democracy. Who Will Ring the Bell?

Highlights from the Challenges to Democracy launch event on October 3, 2013, a panel discussion moderated by WBUR and NPR’s On Point host Tom Ashbrook on the threat economic inequality poses to the health of American democracy. Continue reading

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First Chapter: Plutocrats by Chrystia Freeland

An excerpt from journalist Chrystia Freeland’s book Plutocrats in which the author gives two brief historical narratives, one of America’s economic inequality and the other of political inequality, from the 1770s to the 1970s. Continue reading

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In the News: Don’t Dare Call the Health Law ‘Redistribution’

On December 15, the Ash Center is collaborating with the American Repertory Theater on its performance of The Heart of Robin Hood. The legend of Robin Hood and his band of outlaws, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, is perhaps the most well-known symbol of  economic redistribution. Following the performance, Archon Fung will discuss  the fight for economic justice in Boston with Steve Meacham, Organizing Coordinator of City Life/Vida Urbana.

Meanwhile, John Harwood reports for the New York Times on the political toxicity of the word redistribution in the Obama Administration. Continue reading

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Robert McChesney and John Nichols Want You to Help Break Apart the Media-Money-Elections Complex

Highlights from a discussion of their new book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America at the Ash Center on October 1, 2013.

 

By Tim Glynn-Burke

In 1888, the time of America’s Industrial Revolution and Gilded Age, President Rutherford B. Hayes said “This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations and for corporations.” Some 80 years later the tide appeared to have turned. Continue reading

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Inequality vs. Democracy: The Boston Review Explores Influence of Money

 

For those interested in further information related to our Oct. 3 launch event on Inequality vs. Democracy with On Point’s Tom Ashbrook, check out this online discussion in The Boston Review on the threat to American democracy posed by growing economic inequality. One of our featured guests, Princeton Professor of Politics Martin Gilens, leads off the discussion with a comment based on his 2012 book Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America. Ten scholars responded in what is a lively debate that digs deeply into this challenge. Continue reading

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