Friday, March 11, 2005

Post by Bruce Ackerman

In my dialogue with Cass Sunstein at the Conference, I will be urging a "Citizen's Agenda" as a centerpiece of progressive constitutionalism for the next generation. My aim is to redeem the lost promise of the Fourteenth Amendment's vision of national citizenship through the enactment of framework statutes and the judicial development of the meaning of "privileges" and "immunities" of American citizenship. The creation of a legislative "Citizenship Agenda" has been at the center of my recent books with Ian Ayres (Voting with Dollars), Jim Fishkin (Deliberation Day) and Anne Alstott (The Stakeholder Society).

These books have two basic aims. The first is to give ordinary Americans realistic tools for participating in political life by providing each citizen (1) with 50 "Patriot dollars" which he can give to any party, candidate or interest group of his choice during the course of a presidential election (V with D); and (2) an opportunity to discuss the issues with his neighbors at a new public holiday held two weeks before each national election. (DDay)

The second aim is to create a new institution of civic inheritance to complement the existing institution of family inheritance. Each American citizen should receive a substantial stake (Alstott and I argue for $80,000) when starting out in life as a young adult. Each citizen should be free to use his stake for any project he thinks best. Stakeholding will give renewed meaning to the Declaration's promise of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" by giving young adults the wherewithall to shape their lives at a moment when most of them are living from paycheck to paycheck.

I think this is a winning platform politically. By reorganizing progressive politics around the ideas of common citizenship -- both political and economic -- it will lay the foundation for a political coalition that will ultimately be in a position to name Supreme Court justices who will repudiate The Slaughterhouse Cases, and give constitutional meaning to the "privileges" and "immunities" of citizenship that make sense in the twenty-first century.

-- Bruce Ackerman