Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, March 15, 2016

La Follette symposium focuses on the effectiveness of democracy today

La Follette symposium focuses on the effectiveness of democracy today

Is democracy in the United States and elsewhere still functioning to effectively provide good governance for its citizens?

Two distinguished speakers will address this question during the La Follette School of Public Affairs’ spring symposium Thursday, April 21 at the Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard St. Francis Fukuyama of Stanford University and Suzanne Mettler of Cornell University will examine the gaps between citizens’ expectations for government and what it actually delivers and will consider how these gaps might be closed.

The Policyscape and the Challenges of Contemporary Politics to Policy Maintenance, 2 p.m.
Suzanne Mettler, professor of American Institutions, Cornell University

America the Vetocracy, 3:30 p.m., Hilldale Lecture in Social Studies
Francis Fukuyama, director, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University

An American political economist, Fukuyama will share his thoughts on the rise of interest groups and the polarization of the two dominant political parties in the United States for the Hilldale Lecture in Social Studies. In Foreign Affairs magazine in 2014, he defined "vetocracy" as an unbalanced form of government where it is easier to stop or veto things from happening than it is to agree on policies intended to promote the common good. 

Fukuyama is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He worked in the U.S. State Department during Ronald Reagan’s and George H.W. Bush’s presidential administrations and received his doctorate in political science from Harvard University.

Fukuyama is associated with the rise of the neoconservative movement in the 1970s; however, he has since distanced himself from it. He is well known for his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man in which he predicted the eventual worldwide triumph of political and economic liberalism. His most recent book is Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy.

Mettler and La Follette School Professor Don Moynihan will respond to Fukuyama, who also will address audience questions.

Mettler will discuss contemporary political life amid a “policyscape” – a landscape densely laden with policies that have become established institutions, bearing consequences for governing operations, the policy agenda, and political behavior.

More recently, Mettler says, partisan polarization has undermined such political capacity, leaving numerous policies untended. The mismatch between the demands of the policyscape and the character of contemporary politics imperils effective democratic governance, she says.

Mettler’s research and teaching interests include public policy (primarily social welfare, tax, health, and education), American political development, political behavior and civic engagement, and inequality. Her most recent book is Degrees of Inequality: How Higher Education Policies Sabotaged the American Dream, in which she argues that higher education in the United States works well for those born into well-off families but few others.

She also has written extensively about the effects of government programs (including the GI Bill) on civic engagement and documented the public’s imperfect understanding of how they benefit from government programs. Mettler taught at Syracuse University until 2007, when she returned to Cornell, where she received her doctorate in government.

La Follette School Professor Pam Herd and Political Science Associate Professor Nils Ringe will respond to Mettler. Ringe also is director of UW-Madison's Center for European Studies.

The Hilldale Lecture Series, which began in 1973 and is administered by UW-Madison’s Office of the Secretary of the Faculty, is sponsored by the faculty’s four divisional committees — Arts and Humanities, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social Studies — and funded by the university’s Hilldale Fund.

Both lectures are free and open to the public, and they will be streamed live. RSVPs are encouraged but not required by April 18 via email to Outreach Specialist This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 608-265-2658.