Office Hours: Jay Mandle



W. Bradford Wiley Professor of Economics Jay R. Mandle saw his most recent book hit book­stores this summer. Titled Cre­ating Political Equality: Ameri­can Elections as a Public Good, the book was published in June 2010 by Academia Press.

Mandle explains that in or­der for America to restore faith in its voting population, the democratic system has to make serious changes. He suggests in this book that elections should be financed by the government itself, and otherwise treated as a public good. The rational for this is that the current system relies on private funding of electoral campaigns, which leads to dis­tortions in public policy.

Mandle said two sources sparked his interest in writing the book. He was principally influenced by his teaching ex­perience at Colgate.

“In the introductory econom­ics course that I teach I explain what econo­mists mean by public goods: these are goods or services that are inadequate­ly supplied be­cause consum­ers can engage in free-riding,” Mandle said.

Second, Man­dle was influenced by his involvement with Democracy Matters, “a nation­al student orga­nization founded by my adopted son Adonal Foyle, Colgate ’98 and 13 year NBA veteran,” he said.

“I put the two influences together with the following thought experiment: what would happen if the expenditures for national defense and security – a typical example of a public good – were paid for by only a small fraction of the American people? The answer is not only would national defense be inad­equate, but it would be biased in the interests of the donors. Obviously this outcome would be unacceptable to most people. The same I think is true with regard to the political process,” Mandle said.

In his monthly column “Money On My Mind,” which appears both on the Democracy Matters website and in The Huffington Post, he fre­quently develops this discussion about the bias of political processes towards the interests of political campaign contributors.

Mandle is a prolific writer, and has been developing the ideas that appear in this work for some time.

“This is the third book in which I take up themes relat­ed to this issue: [the previous two are] Globalization and the Poor, and Democracy, America and the Age of Globalization” Mandle said. “Really, they could have all fit together to make one big book instead of three separate ones.”

Critics noted Mandle’s acces­sible writing style and praised the book’s thought-provoking move to unite the concepts of economic globalization and campaign finance.

“This book represents an im­portant intellectual breakthrough for the emerging movement to democratize this country’s poli­tics,” said Bob Edgar, CEO of Common Cause and former member of the House of Rep­resentatives (7th Congressional District, PA).

“I see this book as a unique contribution to timely and im­portant discussion in all the so­cial sciences and beyond—soci­ology, political science, history and economics—about where our society is going and how we respond to rapidly evolving and widespread change in the twenty-first century,” Boston University Professor of History Louis Ferleger said.

“I hope the book will produce real action and change,” Mandle said. “What I find in my work with Democracy Matters is that there is wide spread disenchant­ment with the political process, but instead of leading to action to achieve reform, the result is cynicism and a retreat from poli­tics … But if an alternative is presented, nobody knows when it will be taken up by people seeking political reform.”

Currently, Mandle is off-campus at The University of the West Indies in Barbados. His work there is focused on Carib­bean economic development, specifically looking at the pos­sibility of stimulating economic growth by encouraging mem­bers of the West Indian Diaspo­ra to return home and put their human capital to work.