NPJ Book Review: The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution, Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic by Ganesh Sitaraman

The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution, Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic by Ganesh Sitaraman (2017)

Sitaraman makes a good case that the number one threat to the America’s constitutional government is the collapse of the middle class. He argues that unlike warfare constitutions that the U.S. Constitution was shaped and designed by relative economic equality – a strong middle class, no extreme wealth or poverty, economic opportunity and government checks and balances. And he states that without a functional middle class the republic will fall apart and cease to exist.

The American democracy existence depends on the will of the people and the consent of the governed. And, if the economic elites control the government then they will look out for their own interests. The founders appreciated the nature of what they were experimenting with and the author looks at the history of constitutions and the challenges the new country faced. Though the men that signed the constitution were property owners they understood, as the Federalist papers point out, the need for democratic participation and “the avoidance of” extremes.

The author quotes John Adams – “Is there such a rage for Profit and Commerce” that we no longer have “public virtue enough to support the Republic”? He focuses on the fact that economic inequality is rising, the middle class is collapsing and power is being concentrated in the hands of the few. The founders he argues understood that most nations floundered in an inevitable inequality and death of the middle class disintegrates and that is why they crafted the constitution in the form that they did. Unfortunately, the United States today has witnessed exactly what a number of founders feared might happen.

Sitaraman offers a thought-provoking perspective and one wonders whether the Republic indeed will survive given the fact that the economic elite control the purse strings and political directions of the United States. The current direction of the nation offers little hope for democracy as it has clothed itself in a plutocracy.

When one looks at the increasing number of college graduates that are unemployed or working in a position below their qualifications and barely surviving on their minimum wages and salaries then the future looks ominous except for those wealthiest that appear to be clueless or apathetic at best to the middle class plight.