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Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age
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Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  200 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Using a vast swath of data spanning the past six decades, "Unequal Democracy" debunks many myths about politics in contemporary America, using the widening gap between the rich and the poor to shed disturbing light on the workings of American democracy. Larry Bartels shows the gap between the rich and poor has increased greatly under Republican administrations and decrease ...more
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published April 27th 2008 by Princeton University Press (first published 2008)
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rmn
This is political scientist Larry Bartels' statistical look at the growing income inequality in America and the effects income has on American politics (and vice versa). He uses data and regression analysis to show that income inequality grows during Republican presidencies and rich people have more influence on how representatives vote. Wow, really Captain Obvious? It took you six years and 300 pages to figure that out? It is rumored that in his next book, Bartels will use deep statistical anal ...more
C M
Larry Bartels' "Unequal Democracy" is an exemplary work of accessible and relevant political science, which unfortunately has become so rare theses days, particularly in the subfield of American politics. While not necessarily advancing a novel thesis, or being the first to investigate the question of the effects of economic inequality on American democracy, Bartels uses a wealth of mostly survey data, statistical analysis, and case studies to provide a comprehensive answer to the question. As i ...more
David Birken
If you want to understand why we have so much econ disparity in this country this is a must read.
Shel Schipper
Great glimpse at the quandary that extreme capitalism brings to the democratic process. T As the author wrote, "...scientists since Aristotle have wrestled with the question of whether substantial economic inequality is compatible with democracy..." Bartels fills his book with facts, statistics, charts all enumerating the unparalleled economic disparity of modern America and goes on to show studies that look at the psychology of why more people aren't up in arms at this fact.This is a fascinatin ...more
Dwight
An excellent and maddening book about the political and economic inequality that exists in the US. It takes on Thomas Frank's contention--in What's the Matter With Kansas?--that people are just stupidly voting against their own interests. It's not that people are stupid, it's that our entire political system is geared not only to get people to vote against their own interests, but also to favor the rich and their interests above all others. I'd be curious to see a future edition of this book aft ...more
Tahir
Quick summary: Sound argument against the Thomas Frank position on the Republican drift of working class (bottom third for Bartels) voters against their economic interests. Such voters are shown to be not change significantly their economic and social issue preferences. But more importantly, Bartels provides useful analyses on the lack of any responsiveness of either party to the preferences of the voters in the bottom third of income, with some effect by middle income voters, but largely effect ...more
Jeffrey Cavanaugh
A rather good examination of the political aspects of economic inequality in the contemporary United States. The author pretty conclusively demonstrates that the US political system simply ignores the policy preferences of low-income individuals. This has created a feed-back loop wherein economic advantage leads to and reinforces political advantage and vice versa. It should come as no surprise, then, that economic inequality has reached heights not seen since the Gilded Age.

Takeaway lesson? Do
...more
Al Rowell
The author utilizes his analysis of existing surveys to dehumanize the critical situation the nation faces with a worsening inequality in the distribution of wealth. The last fleeting references to the devastation of Katrina cannot save this work. It is a purely academic exercise that does little except to substantiate what should be obvious while failing to offer any solutions or proposals to restore greater balance. This was a very tedious read.
Jonathan
Fantastic statistical look on how presidential administrations affect the economy, with an emphasis on the effect it has on people of different income levels. It helps to be a little familiar with statistics to get everything he lays out, but he's done a decent job of making most of it accessible to the layman. No need to believe the spin from either side anymore - just look at the data.
Bimus
Nov 05, 2008 Bimus rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: America
Recommended to Bimus by: Paul Krugman
Incredible measurement of political economic consciousness over the last 40 or so years. Be prepared to know a little about statistics if you want to truly understand what the dynamics are. There are plain language bolts of lightning explaining some of the comparisons though. I suppose it would be near revolutionary in the proof it provides but in some sense we already knew this? You tell me.
Tamra
Economics analysis that large disparities in income and wealth do not promote economic growth. Compares our stats to that of other countries, and we come up short in economic mobility and living standards for poor children. Book explains how we got where we are today. Wondering how we are so broke today as a nation? Read this book and you'll get a clear picture.
Michael Quinn
Nothing short of a masterpiece. A damning account of the politics of inequality and the forces that have separated the rich from the rest for the last 30 years. There can be little doubt about the huge role that government plays in this process. Each section is great, but Bartles saves the best for the final chapter, which is heart wrenching.
Jennell McHugh
This is the most data-filled, research-stocked compilation that honestly and provocatively exposes devestatingly necessary reality. It's a very tough read but rewarding. I recommend it to anyone who doesn't understand the powerful relationship between american political parties and their direct influence of economic policy.
Jonathan
Bartels sets out to write a book that appeals to both policy wonks and a general audience, and I'd say it succeeds. It is laden with statistics and data but nonetheless quite readable. It is also quite sobering to anyone who cares about social justice and income inequality.
John
Great examination of inequality & american democracy. Accessible to advanced undergrads, but be prepared to provide explanations on basic stats. Most statistical models are quite simple, but presents enough evidence to get you thinking & posing questions.
C. Scott
Stuffed with deep analysis of intriguing studies... but a very trying read. Unless you're cool with reading charts - then reading detailed descriptions of said charts, this scholarly work will be hard to work your way through.
Jay
Really good work for policy wonks. Tons of stats that show how little the divide is in America's political views... yet also showing how that narrow political divide is exploited by the top income brackets.
Ray
Mar 16, 2009 Ray rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: academics
great research. strong indictment against GOP for hurting practically everyone but the very rich. But how do they keep winning if this is true? His answer is not very compelling.
Chris
Thoughtful, careful treatment of the causes of inequality in America. You should read it, but in case you don't, I'll cut to the chase: The Republicans did it.
Alex Peterson
I didn't get through it all just yet, but it's got a great use of statistical analysis and goes into a level of detail that we just don't see enough of.
Sean Chick
Well written for this kind of work. The strictly empirical basis of Batels' argument makes it all the more convincing.
Tiffoknee the 3rd Conner
Chock full of frightening statistics that should really, really piss you off. Seriously.
Sam Snideman
Actually not a bad book, and written especially for the non-political scientist.
Sandeep
Informative but a tedious read at times.
Taylor Waters
Good information, very dry.
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Nov 27, 2014
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“On average, the real incomes of middle-class families have grown twice as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans, while the real incomes of working poor families have grown six times as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans. These substantial partisan differences persist even after allowing for differences in economic circumstances and historical trends beyond the control of individual presidents. They suggest that escalating inequality is not simply an inevitable economic trend—and that a great deal of economic inequality in the contemporary United States is specifically attributable to the policies and priorities of Republican presidents.” 0 likes
“the roll call votes cast by U.S. senators are much better accounted for by their own partisanship than by the preferences of their constituents. Moreover, insofar as constituents’ views do matter, political influence seems to be limited entirely to affluent and middle-class people. The opinions of millions of ordinary citizens in the bottom third of the income distribution have no discernible impact on the behavior of their elected representatives. These disparities in representation persist even after allowing for differences between high- and low-income citizens in turnout, political knowledge, and contact with public officials.” 0 likes
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