Unequal Democracy

← Indian Dance Traditions Research


Democracy is a cherished ideal of American people, which is called to provide all citizens with equal rights. In ancient Greece, democracy meant the power of epos. It was used as an antonym of autocracy, i.e. the power of one ruler. The Foundation Fathers proclaimed democracy as a main principle of ruling the American nation. The Declaration of Independence states that all American citizens, regardless of their income, race, color of skin, gender or religion, have equal rights and freedoms in pursuit of justice and happiness. The USA has become a land of opportunities for millions of immigrants from all over the world. People have arrived to America in hope that their hopes and rights would be realized to the fullest. They believed in the equality of opportunities proclaimed and guaranteed by the American Constitution. However, having rights and exercising them to the full extent are two different things.

Get a Price Quote
Title of your paper
Writer level
Urgency ?
Type of assignment
Spacing ?
Number of pages
- +
Order total:

Unequal Democracy Book Review Example

The book Unequal Democracy, written by Larry Bartels in 2008, draws the reader’s attention to the state of things in political and economic rights’ regulations through an immense use of statistics. It is a result of a six-year research of the political background for the economic inequality of the U.S. citizens. The author has studied the aspects of the problem for a period of about half a century. He referred to the time starting from the 1970s. He marked it as a beginning of the economic inequality escalation. Bartles has named this time the New Gilded Age (Bartels 2008). The author has analyzed the growth of family income in different decades and underlined the imbalance in the growth of wealth and disproportions of well-being between the poor, middle and high people. The book has ten chapters; and each of them underlines paradoxes of democracy development after the end of the World War II and up to now.

The first chapter, the New Gilded Age, focuses on a close consideration of income distribution and growth during the last three decades. The author shows that America had a successful economy growth starting from the period after war times. America did not suffer from the ruinous effects of the war and had a sufficient potential for developing its industry, technology and social infrastructure. Bartels reveals the statistics that the income growth indexes were constantly growing for both rich and poor people during the period from the 1950s to the mid 1970s. In accordance with the author’s measurements, a level of equality was acceptable, though higher than in other developed countries (Bartels 16).

The time from the 1970s and up to now is characterized as a new age of the technological development. Bartels has compared it to the Gilded Age in the American economy a century before. Competitive salaries of high-level professionals have attracted millions of immigrants from all over the world to come to America and develop its economy. The author states that the initial family income growth had been rather high approximately up to 1970. It was comparatively higher that the same indexes in the highly developed European countries. Starting from the middle 1970s, the political mechanisms began a development. The new coming governments started regulating the taxpayers’ ability to contribute to the national budget.

People all over the world vigorously promote the American Democracy as a fulfillment of humanly based principles in life. A responsive government has to take into consideration the rights and freedoms of all citizens. In fact, the promotion of democratic ideals does not help to gain any success in their application in America. An economic gap between certain groups of people persists. Non-white citizens often experience abuse or discrimination in the income distribution. Equal political rights do not provide such people with an adequate access to opportunities, as there are fictively created mechanisms of the economic disproportion.

Money and wealth stipulate a level of education and job opportunities for different layers of the population. Bartels has proved by the enormous statistic data that an income rate considerably influenced the sensible and responsible participation of different layers of citizens in elections. The study has showed that the families with an average year income lower than 15000$ and over 75000$ showed a significant disproportion in their voting activity. The second group participated in the proportion nine out of ten, while the other one showed an activity of only half of the group representatives (Bartels 20).

The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s managed to change a lot in common approaches of the white and non-white people’s rights. Exclusion and segregation on a racial basis were legally forbidden and criticized. African-American citizens began attending the same educational institutions like the white people and received an opportunity to claim for their career promotion. However, a starting point of the white and non-white people was different. After some centuries of the formal and informal exploitation, black people still had the mentality of servants. They had to start building their households, while white people had to improve theirs. The situation showed a progress during the first decade after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, with the beginning of the New Gilded Age, the process got into a phase of stagnation. Black and colored people have been still experiencing silent and non-official abuse, as the living and working conditions of these people need the significant changes and development.

While political officials proclaim a prohibition of segregation and exclusion, they do not guarantee the rehabilitation of African-Americans and Latinos in a new high-tech environment. A natural reaction of traditionally abused people would be a cultural shock and frustration. Politicians offer a social protection and monetary welfare. However, they do not look for natural motives for the self-development and personal growth of those people.

Starting from the middle 1970s, the American poor and middle-class citizens were facing the sprouts of discrimination based on an income principle. Those, who had moderate or low salaries, could not claim to be responded and heard by governments to the full extent. A constant need has made those people work hard and avoid participating in the social and political life because they did not trust or believe in possibilities of the real development. The wealth gaps appeared both between poor and middle class citizens, as well as the middle class and the richest layers of the population. The magnets of modern America have pulled away from working people. If one compares the privileges and living conditions of the very rich and very poor people, they resemble those of masters and slaves (Bartels 223).

Persistent economic inequalities in America depend on various causes. Some of them are the new forms of the family life, a global process of integration and some technological progress features. The same development in social institutions is currently happening among many nations of the world. The informal economic abuse is a typical characteristic of many progressive policies. The level of such economic discrimination directly affects the outcome of political elections, preferences and the political activity. It depends on the class politics and a partisan change.

The partisan political economy, revealed in Bartels’ book, shows the interdependency of economics and electoral issues. However, all the U.S.A. citizens have the right to ballot for the president’s post. Only 15 % of non-rich Americans dare to try (Bartels 31). Although the Civil Rights movement has improved the living and working conditions for millions of African-Americans and other minorities, the recent institution of American Democracy faces a problem of stagnation. The rich minority has strongly established its position in politics and business. A simple comparison of the poor and rich people’s accommodation, their bank accounts and offices shows the informal but apparent inequality.

Tax policy and regulations as well as speculating with social programs can contribute to socioeconomic inequalities thriving. Bartels provides the statistics, which proves that the level of economic inequality is higher and more stressful in the U.S.A. than in Canada, Germany or France. Wealth and income disparities have led to the economic abuse and contributed to the flourishing of the modern age of economic discrimination (Bartels 127).

Americans have always supported a free enterprise and private property, which were the insights for the development of talented and capable people without any consideration of income, gender or ethnic principles. At the same time, the U.S.A. citizens have always cherished an ideal of equality. It is synonymous to the concept of democracy itself. There is antagonism between these two approaches. The amounts of private property should be transparent as well as the sources of income. Governments are called to provide an access to opportunity for everyone and do not to support those who can be a source of help themselves. Sometimes, wealth disparities make people disappointed and indifferent to any political preferences. They see the abyss between themselves and the ruling elite and succumb to distressful conditions.

Bartels provides the examples where he shows the distractive features of the lower and middle-class existence. People are not motivated to a personal development but to self destruction. An idea of the evil environment reveals all the conditions of the poor education, ill habits, addictions and inadequate upbringing. The illiteracy and a lack of basic knowledge still thrive among the minor groups of the population. Disgraceful behaviors of adults make children follow their way. Poor categories of people are not concerned with a political choice. Their crucial purpose is to survive in the stone jungles of the highly industrialized world, ruled by the rich people. The ruling elite encourages the absence of voice among those abused (Bartels 275).

On the pages of his book, Bartels discusses the pros and cons of the tax cut and tax repeal, which took place in the latest decade. All those measures are called to have a plausible effect on the family income rate. However, they do not invite lower-paid categories of citizens into the political performance and self-realization. People get used to their humiliated position and prefer living on the welfare rather than develop and look for a new opportunity in life. The aim of democracy is a free experiencing of civil rights.


In conclusion, it should be noted that there is the antagonism in the phrase unequal democracy. Equality is one of the basic principles of democracy. That is why Americans should either work to improve a real state of things or reject from being called a democratic state. In accordance with the ideas revealed in Bartels’ book, rich people should think profoundly of the circumstances of the informal economic abuse and make appropriate steps forward. The gap between the working people, the political and economic elite is becoming an abyss. The health of American Democracy is under a threat.

All aforementioned aspects bear distrust to policy makers and force them to look for new approaches to the inequality problem salvation. The root of inequality is in the human ability to believe in oneself and then to persuade the others that his or her rights are real. The politicians and those who have the will to decide should take care of economically abused layers of the population. The institution of trust is under the threat, which can lead to the unexpectedly sad results.