Symposium on Democracy: Young Promotes Need for Flourishing American Middle Class

Created: February 14, 2018
Last Updated: July 13, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Feb. 14, 2018) - Washington & Jefferson College’s (W&J) inaugural Symposium on Democracy continued Tuesday evening, Feb. 13, with a talk about democracy and the American middle class.

The lecture was led by Stephen B. Young, global executive director of the Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism, an international network of experienced business leaders who advocate a principled approach to business in the global economy.

“My proposition today is that the foundation for a worthwhile democracy is a robust middle class,” Young told a full room of W&J students, faculty, staff, and community members. “To me the middle class and democracy are covariant. As one goes up, so does the other. As one goes down, so does the other.”

Young discussed the economic impact on the middle class in the decades since the 1960s and 1970s, including pre-tax income and earnings gains during that time, the narrowing gender wage gap, income growth in American households, and a general decline in household net worth in the past five years. If the country remains on its current course, he said, he sees two outcomes for the middle class.

“One way will be increasing inequality of wealth and income with the top doing very well, the bottom surviving on sufferance in low-wage jobs with support from entitlements, and with no savings or ownership of real estate,” Young said. “The other likely alternative will be an entitlement state with high taxes on the rich and subsidies for the poor and little for those in the middle due to low growth and the elimination of middle class jobs through automation.”

Young also noted that the United States fosters a culture of optimism based on scientific and technical progress; that Americans have come to trust reason and university education, and that there is a faith in American exceptionalism.

“Let us now strive to repair the damage done to our middle class and to our democracy,” he said.

Upcoming Symposium events include: “The Foundations of American Democracy: 1776-1865” by Richard Carwardine, FRHistS, FBA, FLSW, Professor of American History and former President of the Corpus Christi College, Oxford on Feb. 14; and “The Legacies of Washington and Jefferson: 21st Century Perspectives” a panel discussion on Feb. 15 featuring W&J faculty members.

All events are free, open to the public, and non-ticketed. Video of the Young and Carwardine lectures will be live-streamed at the time of the event at: washjeff.edu. Videos and additional coverage of all events will be posted to the W&J YouTube Channel and the W&J College website this week.

 

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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