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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

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  365 ratings  ·  35 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 decreased ...more
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published April 27th 2008 by Princeton University Press (first published 2008)
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3.90  · 
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 ·  365 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Peter Mcloughlin
Lays out in stats and charts what most people (outside the Trump cult) know. Republican rule makes the public poorer, sicker, and dumber and jacks up inequality. I would simply say it is common knowledge that Right is toxic and corporate centrists are at best useless. It is nice to see the charts and the 8 by 10 color glossy photos but I already knew this. thanks
May 22, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read the 2nd edition which came out in 2016. A highly sophisticated example of political science research that clearly demonstrates that the economy does better during Democratic administrations, the wealthy benefit greatly during Republican administrations, and that government primarily ignores the poor, barely pays attention to the middle class, while catering significantly to the interests of the wealthy. Our political system is an example of what Aristotle meant by an oligarchy. As Bartels n ...more
Shel Schipper
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
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
David Birken
Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If you want to understand why we have so much econ disparity in this country this is a must read.
Doctor Moss
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political-theory
An eye-opening book. Bartels makes 2 major points:

- 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 (Democr
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book, but it is NOT for the innumerate, among whom I now find I have to count (haha) myself.
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Bartels' central concern in this book is to both demonstrate how dramatically unequal the United States has become AND why it is that so relatively few people -- despite sharing moderate to progressive views on most social, political and economic issues -- have repeatedly voted in ways that align with their sentiments.

Since the degree of inequality is well discussed elsewhere -- and should, for most of us, be part of our "facts on file" in the first place -- I share with you my increased une
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: mpa-psc, read-in-2010
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
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
The statistics are very, very useful. The conclusions are absurd and the explanations are mostly sought in the opposite direction from where the answers lie. But perhaps it was the best way to successfully promote the publication to a broader audience.
It would not be on Obama's reading list if it lacked the convenient conclusion. It contains some uncanny truths with a thin layer of - for relevant people acceptable - speculations on how to interpret the data, wrapped around it.
2 stars for provid
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Al Rowell
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Lance Cahill
Nov 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
The book is a great statistical exploration of American public opinion focusing on economic inequality. The author's analyses refutes some commonly held assumptions regarding political opinions. However, argumentation was weak with respect to opinion formation and the apparent need to reaffirm his commitment to egalitarianism at various points throughout the book was grating.
Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 22, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Jennell McHugh
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Michael Quinn
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: all
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.
Jay Roberts, CFP®, CRPC ®
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.
C. Scott
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
Apr 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Data analysis is interesting and comprehensive, leading to some surprising conclusions about the extent of political inequality and the role of partisan politics. This book was written in 2008, but still relevant now, especially post-2016 election.
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sam Snideman
Sep 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: graduate-school
Actually not a bad book, and written especially for the non-political scientist.
Nov 01, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Tiffany Conner
Dec 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Chock full of frightening statistics that should really, really piss you off. Seriously.
Dec 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Informative but a tedious read at times.
Taylor Waters
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Good information, very dry.
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Larry Bartels is an American political scientist.

He holds the May Werthan Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University.

His scholarship focuses on public opinion, campaigns and elections, representation, and public policy.

In addition to his books, he is also the author of numerous scholarly articles and of occasional pieces in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los A
“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.” 1 likes
“as the economically advantaged groups unleash their greater resources in the political sphere. These groups lobby for tax loopholes, hire lawyers and accountants to maximize their benefit from tax laws, and then deduct the costs.” 1 likes
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