Editors Note: We have closely followed the Occupy movement and welcome both the attention it has drawn to societal problems and its potential to re-democratize American politics. As part of our continuing engagement with the protests, we are publishing a series of opinion essays by Stanford University professors exploring key issues raised by Occupy. The following statement from the group introduces the series.
Alexandra Clotfelter / Occuprint.org
The United States is a country deeply committed to principles. We believe that everyone, not just the rich, should have the opportunity to get ahead or otherwise lead a good life. We believe that everyone, not just the rich, should have a right to be heard when our country makes decisions about its future. And we believe that everyone, not just the rich, should have an opportunity to participate fully and meaningfully in society.
But we dont always live up to our most cherished ideals. Our countrys history has been driven instead by a tension between our principles and our practices. Now and then, the disjuncture between our ideals and institutions has been exposed and led to dramatic reform. Weve ended slavery. Weve extended the franchise to women. And weve secured basic civil rights for all. Some of these projects remain works in progress. But the defining feature of our country is our commitment to making our most cherished principles real and meaningful rather than hollow.
Are we entering another moment in history in which the disjuncture between our principles and our institutions is being cast into especially sharp relief? Are new developments, such as the rise of extreme inequality, opening up new threats to realizing our most cherished principles? Can we build an open, democratic, and successful movement to realize our ideals?
Occupy the Future is a series of opinion pieces that address these questions. Our simple purpose is to lay out what our countrys principles are, whether were living up to them, and what can be done to bring our institutions into better alignment with them.
Ethics and Inequality
Should the Occupy movement oppose all forms of inequality? What makes a particular type of inequality objectionable?
Rob Reich and Debra Satz
Political Inequality in America
To what extent does our political system live up to the ideal of providing an equal voice to everyone? Is extreme inequality and corporate power undermining that principle?
Economics and Inequality
Why have income and wealth inequality in the United States reached unprecedented levels? Does this outcome reflect the operation of a fair and open contest?
Education and Inequality
How does our education system fail our commitment to equality of opportunity? How can educational access be equalized?
Capitalism Versus the Environment
Why do we continue to place so little weight on the possibility of catastrophic climate change and other environmental disasters? Is it because corporations, rather than individuals, drive politics and generate policy outcomes that cater more to short-term profits than the long-term well-being of humans?
Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich
The Double Binds of Economic and Racial Inequality
Does the persistence of racial inequalities call into question our commitment to a fair and open economy in which everyone, regardless of race, has equal opportunity? What might be done to end racial inequality once and for all?
Have humanistic disciplines become too specialized to understand our current historical predicament? How can cultural studies help us grasp the significance of the Occupy movement?
Occupy Your Imagination
How have the arts historically addressed inequities and injustice? How might the arts play a role in the Occupy movement?
Michele Elam and Jennifer DeVere Brody
Rationing Education Protects the Rich
How does our educational system favor the rich and sustain poverty and inequality? What can be done to reform it?
David B. Grusky
Momentum for a Millionaires Tax
How does one decide how progressive our tax system should be? Is current practice inconsistent with our values?
Inequality and Health in America
How have health outcomes between the rich and the poor become so unequal? Is this form of inequality inconsistent with our ideals?
The End of the End of History
Is the law protecting the rights of everyone equally? In what ways do corporations, the rich, and the powerful establish laws and exert influence to further their interests?
What I Learned from the 2004 Presidential Election
Are elections in the United States fair? How are some constituencies restricted from voting and what can be done to rectify the problem?
Threats to Democracy in America and What Should a Sustained Movement Look Like?
What recent political trends are undermining Amercan democracy? Does the Occupy movement offer a viable way to counter them?