Course Description



3 credits, Limited Enrollment (20 students), Required intensive writing, No final exam

This course explores the connections and tensions among democracy, the rule of law, and concentrated wealth in the United States. The course begins by looking at contemporary trends in the United States about the growth and distribution of income and wealth, and the intersection of those trends with partisan politics both in general and with respect to particular issues such as tax policy and campaign spending. It also explores the contested heritages of Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic, both as currently understood and as understood by the founders of the United States. Students will focus their individual research and writing on a particular topic or area involving wealth, the democratic process, and the rule of law, such as (but not limited to) legislation and judicial decisions about the regulation of campaign spending, judicial elections, legal representation of the poor, voter identification and other voting laws, investigation and prosecution, or lack thereof, of alleged illegalities in investments, mortgages, and mortgage foreclosures, civil prosecution and settlement of multi-million and multi-billion dollar corporate illegalities, and the role of the media (of numerous sorts) in the political process. Student research may also focus on the course’s themes in earlier historical periods, such as the Founding era, the rise of the Republican Party in the 1850s, the early 20th century Progressive Era and New Deal, and the decline of the post-war “social contract” in the 1970s.

Readings will include political science and political theory, history, journalism, judicial opinions, legislation, and legal scholarship.