Howard Zinn on Democracy in America
Howard Zinn is a historian, political scientist, social critic, activist and playwright, best known as author of the bestseller A People's History of the United States.
Zinn has been active in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements in the United States.
The author of some 20 books, Zinn is currently Professor Emeritus in the Political Science Department at Boston University. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, the artist Roslyn Zinn. The couple have two children, Myla and Jeff, and five grandchildren. Both artist and editor, Roslyn has had a role in editing all of Zinn's books and many of his articles.
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  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.
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