Howard Zinn on Democracy in America

Question: What is the state of democracy in America?

Howard Zinn: We don’t have a lot of democracy in America today. We have these formal institutions. We have representative government and we have a Bill of Rights.

But the fact is that the representative government doesn’t work very well. The electoral system is dominated by wealth. For instance, in the upcoming [2008] presidential election, most people I speak to cannot find a candidate that they like. They have no choice. The candidates have been selected for them and they have Republican or Democrat, and third party candidates don’t have a chance. The political system, therefore, is very limited.

Even freedom of speech and press, which are supposedly guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, they are very severely constricted by the control of the press and the control of all the arenas of free speech by huge corporations that control the major television channels and control the major newspapers.

Sure, we are more democratic than an absolutist and totalitarian state, but we in the United States are still quite a long way from democracy and certainly a long way from economic democracy. Because of the control of the economy by corporations and the tax structure, which is set up by an unrepresentative Congress and approved by a president, a tax structure which has so far channeled the wealth of the country towards the richest one percent of the population.

 

Date Recorded: July 5, 2008

 

 

 

 

What we have is not democracy, Zinn says. We just have formal institutions.

Is life after 75 worth living? This UPenn scholar doubts it.

What makes a life worth living as you grow older?

Culture & Religion
  • Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel revisits his essay on wanting to die at 75 years old.
  • The doctor believes that an old life filled with disability and lessened activity isn't worth living.
  • Activists believe his argument stinks of ageism, while advances in biohacking could render his point moot.
Keep reading Show less

Brazil's Amazon fires: How they started — and how you can help.

The Amazon Rainforest is often called "The Planet's Lungs."

NASA
Politics & Current Affairs
  • For weeks, fires have been burning in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, likely started by farmers and ranchers.
  • Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has blamed NGOs for starting the flames, offering no evidence to support the claim.
  • There are small steps you can take to help curb deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, which produces about 20 percent of the world's oxygen.
Keep reading Show less

Amazon is selling thousands of banned, unsafe, and mislabelled products, report shows

The world's largest retailer has evolved "like a flea market," according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • The report found more than 4,000 listings for products deemed to be unsafe, banned or mislabelled.
  • These products included mislabelled pain relievers, dangerous children's toys, and helmets that had failed federal safety tests.
  • There are some steps you can take to avoid buying unsafe or counterfeit products from Amazon.
Keep reading Show less