Author: Chang Che

Is Democracy Compatible with Extreme Inequality?

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville took a 10-month trip to the United States to study the American penal system. In the resulting book—Democracy in America—he singled out one noteworthy feature: “Amongst the novel objects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, nothing struck me more forcibly than the general equality of conditions.” Although he ignored the fact of slavery, his reference to economic equality among white Americans was, at the time, accurate. According to economic historians Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson, the share of national income going to the top one percent was less than 10 percent. Today, the share of national income going to the top one percent has doubled, while median wages have remained largely stagnant. In the last 40 years, CEO wages have grown nearly 100 times the rate of wages for average workers. The popularity of left-wing candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders—both with significant redistributive policies at the core of their platform—reflects the moral concerns many have about high levels of income inequality. But no moral case for economic …

The Case for Compulsory Voting

The right to vote is under relentless assault in the United States today. In 2013, the Supreme Court nullified a pivotal provision of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, which required states to secure approval from the government before changing their election laws. The consequences of the ruling were swift. North Carolina immediately proposed a voter suppression bill that eliminated same-day voter registration. In 2016, 14 states implemented new voting restrictions for the first time in a presidential election. Five years since the ruling, the number of polling closures has doubled. During a town hall event in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2015, Barack Obama commented on America’s disappointing culture of voter suppression: “We shouldn’t be making it harder to vote, we should be making it easier to vote.” He also considered the radical potential of a mandatory voting law. “It would be transformative if everybody voted—that would counteract money [in politics] more than anything.” The former president’s comments were immediately met with heavy conservative criticism. “Forcing people to vote violates their freedom of …