In the United States, many Americans assume they have certain liberties and rights as citizens: freedom of speech, freedom of worship; the right to pursue happiness and transcend social class.
Gar Alperovitz, a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland, and Marc Raskin, co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies, both recently co-authored books that question these assumptions. Over the past few decades, they argue, freedoms U.S. citizens take for granted have slowly eroded.
Join us for a stimulating discussion on how this happened and where we can go from here.
About Raskin’s Four Freedoms Under Seige: “FDR’s Four Freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — were presented to the American people in his 1941 State of the Union address, and they became the inspiration for a second bill of rights, extending the New Deal and guaranteeing work, housing, medical care, and education. Although the bill never was adopted in a legal sense in this country, its principles pervaded the political landscape for an entire generation, including the War on Poverty and the Great Society reforms of the 1960s. Furthermore, the ideas expressed in the Four Freedoms speech inspired the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But since the late 1970s and early 1980s, these freedoms have been under assault, from presidential administrations of both parties, economic pressures, and finally, the alleged requirements of national security. After 9/11, this process accelerated even more rapidly.”
About Alperovitz’s Unjust Deserts: “The distribution of income and wealth in the United States is more unequal today than at any time since the 1920s. The following study shares with Buffett a fundamental skepticism toward the belief that the nation’s extraordinary inequalities are simply a natural outgrowth of differences in individual effort, skills, and intelligence…The new research findings suggest that such views are profoundly wrong — but for reasons that go well beyond…the understandings that until recently have been common among specialists concerned with these matters. Unjust Deserts suggests that something at least as portentous as these extraordinary developments is silently emerging among scholars studying the sources of wealth, and that once the implications are fully grasped, it too is likely to have dramatic implications — in this case for the distribution of income, wealth, and power throughout society. It suggests, moreover, that this new understanding and the steady evolution of the knowledge economy, combined with growing social and economic pain and set against a backdrop of ever-worsening inequality, are likely to contribute to potentially massive political change as the 21st century unfolds.”
Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland. He and Lew Daly are coauthors of the new book Unjust Deserts: How the Rich are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take it Back (Demos Books, 2008).
Marc Raskin is the co-founder and Distinguished Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, and a professor at George Washington University. He and Robert Spero recently coauthored The Four Freedoms Under Seige: The Clear and Present Danger from Our National Security State (Greenwood, 2006).
Conversation moderated by Sanho Tree, Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.