Bruce Ackerman

Bruce Ackerman is a professor of law at Yale and the author of We the People.

Recent Articles

The Broken Engine of Progressive Politics

The gears of the American change machine -- presidents, parties, and social movements -- no longer work together. A new view of America's major political transformations, from Jefferson and Jackson down to the current disarray of progressive forces.

O ver the centuries, Americans have built themselves a great engine for political change. We cannot understand our present situation without understanding how this machinery was built, how it has been transformed, and how it threatens to catapult us to disaster in the twenty-first century. The engine contains three moving parts. The first consists of political movements that have repeatedly catalyzed sweeping transformations over the course of American history. From the days of George Washington to those of Martin Luther King, Jr., Americans have regularly mobilized themselves for fundamental change, sometimes propelling government in radically new directions. Reconstruction, the New Deal, and the civil rights revolution are obvious examples. The second part of the machine links popular movements to political parties. During the nineteenth century, rising movements consistently transformed themselves into new parties. From Jefferson's Democrats to Bryan's Populists, these movement-...

$80,000 and a Dream

America has become a three-class society. While more than 25 percent of its children now graduate from four-year colleges, the lowest 20 percent inhabit a world of low wages and dead-end jobs. And then there is the vast middle. Despite the economic boom, real wages for men have declined, and only the massive entry by women into the workplace has prevented many families from sinking to income levels lower than in the 1970s. Trickle-down economics has failed to trickle. Globalization will only make these divisions worse. Our politics has not caught up with this three-class reality. While the college-bound elite reap large subsidies, we have done little to aid the vast middle--and we target the underclass with diminishing amounts of assistance. The result is simmering resentment and a receptive audience for the protectionist nostrums of Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan. The current boom may hold these economic...

Crediting the Voters: A New Beginning for Campaign Finance

W hen Americans register to vote, they should be issued a credit card by a special public company-- call it the Patriot card and color it red, white, and blue. This card will become the basis of campaign finance. Suppose each voter's card were automatically credited with a $10 balance for the 1996 presidential election. To gain access to this red-white-and blue money, candidates should be obliged to demonstrate significant popular support by gathering an appropriate number of voter signatures. In exchange for these signatures, the PAtriot company would open an account that grated the candidate an initial balance of red-white-and blue money-- say, one million dollars for presidential aspirants. Candidates could then spend their initial stake on a series of advertisements to convince Patriot holders to transfer more red-white-and-blue money to them. Some candidates will, of course, soon see their initial Patriot balance shrink to zero; others will generate tens of millions as the...

The Court Packs Itself

I n Justice John Paul Stevens's despairing words, Bush v. Gore has shaken "the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." Coming as it does from a justice known for his sobriety, this judgment should give all of us pause--and I mean Republicans no less than Democrats. We are not dealing with the normal disagreement on principle that attends every important Supreme Court decision. Justice Stevens is saying that the majority's decision to halt the Florida recount is a blatantly partisan act, without any legal basis whatsoever. This harsh charge will be taken up in the nation's law reviews; perhaps someone will even produce an intellectually serious defense of the Court's decision. But at the moment, the silence of leading conservative academics is deafening. After a careful study of the Court's opinion, I have reluctantly concluded that Stevens is right. I say reluctantly because this view goes against the grain of my...

The Grand Inquisitor

This book is a call to battle -- against the enemy within. The rhetoric is martial. We are in the midst of "a long-running war for control of our legal culture, which, in turn, [is] part of a larger war for control of our general culture." The call is also religious -- the struggle is against "heresy" on behalf of an embattled "orthodoxy." The enemy? Subjectivists who turn their backs on history; relativists who seek to impose their moral prejudices on the American people by reading them into the Constitution. These heretics have entrenched themselves in America's law schools, where they seek to bedazzle and intimidate the judiciary by their fancy theories and false erudition -- and thereby lead the next generation of lawyers astray. But it may not be too late. So let us take our stand. Against subjectivism, and for the historical Constitution. Against relativism, and for the neutral discovery of constitutional principle. Lest there be any doubt, I am ready to enlist. Law isn't just...

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