Cambridge, MA - Economic uncertainty is a disruptive force in American life. In the United States today, too many families are unable to achieve the life they want despite their best efforts, too many communities have not benefitted from economic growth, and too many Americans believe the economy does not work for people like them. These conditions not only harm lives and livelihoods, they also sow distrust in our political, economic, and community institutions. The widespread belief that the economy does not give everyone a fair chance exacerbates tensions among Americans, threatening the nation’s social fabric and its democracy.
Recent developments – including the COVID-19 pandemic, reckonings over racial inequity, and the events of January 6 – have made obvious the need to reconsider the shared values that undergird the economy. Both policymakers and the broader public should rethink the principles that drive economic decision making, and help craft policies that enable opportunity for all.
The American Academy of Arts & Sciences has launched the Commission on Reimagining Our Economy, an interdisciplinary and nonpartisan multi-year effort chaired by:
Katherine J. Cramer, Virginia Sapiro Professor of Political Science and Natalie C. Holton Chair of Letters & Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison,
Ann Fudge, Former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Young & Rubicam Brands, and
Nicholas Lemann, Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism; Dean Emeritus, Columbia Journalism School.
The Commission comprises scholars, business leaders, journalists, community and faith leaders, and artists from around the country and across the political spectrum. They will assess the impact of the last half-century of economic policymaking, meet with Americans from all over the country, and generate original recommendations meant to create an economy that best serves the needs of the American people.
“With this Commission, we can reimagine the nation’s political economy,” said David Oxtoby, the President of the Academy. “The work is crucial, the timing is essential, and the makeup of the Commission is unique. We are guided by an understanding of the connections between our political and economic systems and by the need to reimagine our economy in order to help individuals, communities, and the nation flourish.”
This Commission will build on Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, the final report of the American Academy’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship. That report acknowledges that economic conditions influence public faith in government, political participation, and civic engagement. While Our Common Purpose includes 31 recommendations to reinvent democracy, it does not offer proposals specifically targeted to address economic issues.
The Commission on Reimagining Our Economy will face these issues head on. Through listening sessions, data collection, and a commitment to crosspartisan work, the Commission will develop bold, achievable recommendations that rethink the values that should drive the economy and that advance practices and policies that would create opportunity, bolster financial security, and rebuild trust in institutions.
The Commission is supported by a $1 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and additional funding provided by David M. Rubenstein and the C&P Buttenwieser Foundation.
The American Academy of Arts & Sciences was founded in 1780 to provide a new nation with valuable knowledge to navigate its greatest challenges. As Americans grapple with financial instability; racial, gender, class, and regional disparities; and systems perceived to favor powerful interests, this is one of those times. The new Commission represents a vital endeavor to reimagine the nation’s political economy, ease distrust, and help the American people face the challenges of the twenty-first century.