- Hardcover: 344 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 27, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691136637
- ISBN-13: 978-0691136639
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 29 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age
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Winner of the 2009 Gladys M. Kammerer Award, American Political Science Association
Winner of the 2009 Leon D. Epstein Outstanding Book Award, Political Organizations and Parties Section of the American Political Science Association
"[I recommend] Larry M. Bartels's Unequal Democracy. Especially at this time every thoughtful American needs to learn as much as possible about the relationship of politics to economics."--Bill Clinton, Daily Beast
"Obama can connect with voters on the economy by using history as a guideline. He should start by reading Unequal Democracy, by Princeton academic Larry Bartels. The non-partisan and non-political Bartels points out devastatingly after an exhaustive study of Democratic and Republican presidents that the Democrats built a better economy and a more just society."--James Carville, CNN
"Many Americans know that there are characteristic policy differences between the [Republican and Democratic] parties. But few are aware of two important facts about the post-World War II era, both of which are brilliantly delineated in a new book, Unequal Democracy, by Larry M. Bartels, a professor of political science at Princeton. Understanding them might help voters see what could be at stake, economically speaking, in November."--Alan Blinder, New York Times
"Bartels is the political scientist of the moment. Along with Obama, Bill Clinton also read and recommends Unequal Democracy. [M]ost people on the street could have told Bartels that the working poor fare better under Democrats . . . but the importance of these and some other findings in the book . . . is that they use scholarly methods to provide political explanations for economic problems."--Michael Tomasky, New York Review of Books
"A provocative new book by Princeton professor Larry M. Bartels, one of the country's leading political scientists."--Dan Balz, Washington Post
"A short review cannot convey the rich variety of arguments and data Bartels deploys in making his case. Some of his analysis focuses on broadly characterized partisan differences, some on high profile examples such as the politics of the minimum wage and the estate tax. He will have done a considerable service if the next time we start thinking about economics we also think about politics. Bartels shows that social issues do not create as strong a headwind against class-based voting as is often assumed and that lower income voters do tend to vote Democratic while upper-income voters do tend to vote Republican. Unequal Democracy offers an important case for why this might be."--Robert Grafstein, Science
"[A] provocative new book by Princeton professor Larry M. Bartels, one of the country's leading political scientists. One of Bartels's most intriguing conclusions is that the political timing of economic growth has influenced voters. Republican presidents...have often generated significant economic growth rates in presidential election years, while Democratic presidents have not."--Dan Balz, Washington Post
"[E]xtraordinarily insightful."--Bob Braun, Newark Star-Ledger
"Unequal Democracy makes the choice voters face clear: Democratic policies spread the wealth and Republican policies protect the wealthy."--Julian E. Zelizer, The Huffington Post
"If voters really want real change, rather than Reality Politics TV-style change [sponsored by the Republicans and that darn elitist corporate media], here are some important facts to consider: since 1948, the economy has grown faster on average under Democratic presidents than The Sarah Palin Smokescreen under Republicans; and income inequality trended "substantially upward under Republican presidents but slightly downward under Democrats," according to Princeton professor of political science, Larry M. Bartels, author of Unequal Democracy."
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- Partisan politics make a significant difference in income growth and income distribution. This is contrary to economic reductionism and some popular belief, i.e., that the economy will do what it does regardless of who we elect as president. The story is not good for Republicans and conservatives, but this is not an ideological argument -- it's statistical analysis.
- There is no statistical evidence to claim that elected representatives (Democratic or Republican) pay any direct attention to the views of the lower third of income earners in their constituencies. That lower third shares a consistently diminishing portion of income growth and has no discernible share in political decisions made by their elected representatives (in Congress).
Along the way, Bartels offers an alternative answer to the "What's the Matter with Kansas?" question -- Thomas Frank's book -- why voters (at least before the last election) vote for Republican candidates who do not appear to represent their best economic interests. Franks had said that, with those voters, "cultural value" issues (abortion, school prayer, etc.) had over-ridden economic interests. Bartels, again through statistical analysis, finds that those voters are actually voting their economic interests, but through a "myopic" lens -- voters' behaviors reflect election year economic performance to the exclusion of other years. Republican presidential candidates benefit from disproportionate economic growth during election years, while not paying the price of low or even negative growth and increasing inequality over the full course of their administrations. Democrats, despite producing higher overall income growth across all income segments and lower inequality, suffer from relatively poor growth during election years.
Republican economists will argue that this is merely a statistical aberration. They claim that presidents have little influence over the economy, and other forces such as monetary policy, oil prices, and technology are more determinative. Republicans view the market as a force of nature, whereas Democrats see it as a political construct. Bartels, being a Democrat, makes a strong case for government intervention to achieve greater balance and greater income equality.
Bartels shows that Democratic presidents have consistently produced their best results during their second year in office. This is because the spending programs put in place the first year usually produce their benfits the second. Not suprisingly income growth was virtually the same for both parties the first, third, and fourth years. The second year surge seems to have given Democrats the edge.
The question that comes to mind is that if Democrats are producing higher income growth and greater equality why did Republicans win 5 of the last 7 presidential elections? Bartels' answer is that the benefits of the second year are no longer part of the voter's consideration by the time elections roll around. Also by the fourth year Republican presidential candidates are making populist election year promises that make them indistinguishable for Democratic candidates. (Which party now is not in favor of bailouts and stimulus packages?)
Bartles makes an interseting argument. He argues that for those looking out for their economic interests it is not only important for Democrats to vote Democratic but Republicans - other than the top 1 percent - should also be voting Democratic. (Joe the Plumber included.) The upcoming presidential elections will probably prove Bartels theory correct.