First Advisor

Craig Carr

Date of Publication

Spring 7-25-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Political Science


Political Science




Social justice, Equality -- Political aspects, Income distribution, Democracy -- Economic aspects



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 89 pages)


In 2004 the American Political Science Association ("APSA") published research exploring whether the rising income inequality in the United States had an effect on political equality. Although the APSA found tremendous evidence of a correlation between income and political power, the APSA nonetheless concluded that the issue could not be conclusively determined without further analysis.

The intent of this thesis is to argue the position that economic inequality is heavily implicated in both political equality and equality of opportunity, and to propose a political theory that directly addresses - rather than evades - this issue. A conclusion drawn in this paper is that it is necessary in liberal capitalist environments to place constraints on individual economic liberty for the sake of maintaining some degree of economic equality. I show in this paper that this conclusion is consistent with both the liberal tradition and American political culture.

This paper accepts - rather than circumvents - the fundamental principle that income inequality is inevitable in a capitalist democracy as is the ability of money to purchase positions, power and assorted privileges. Therefore, it should be the goal of social justice theory to ensure the gap between the richest and poorest be allowed to be great enough to respect individual choice and responsibility, but not great enough to dampen the opportunities available to those born into the bottom of the economic scale or to permit those born into the top of the economic ladder to exert oppressive power over the rest.

In the final chapter I propose four methods of narrowing economic inequality. These include a minimum standard, minimum wage and income tax reform, a tax and cap on wealth and an absolute inheritance cap. These four methods of limiting economic inequality are directed at narrowing, if not eliminating political inequality and inequality of opportunity.


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