Democracy in an Age of Shifting Demographics

Mar 15, 2015 11:00am

Seoul, Korea (March, 31, 2015)
Co-sponsored by Ewha Law School & the Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture, Cornell Law School.
Conference Program/Participant List

Democracy in an Age of Shifting Demographics

Increasingly, countries throughout the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, are experiencing declining birth rates and rising median age of their citizenry. These demographic shifts raise important questions about the future of democracy. How can we ensure collective economic welfare and, at the same time, protect the dignity of both young and old? To what extent does age serve as a basis for interest group formation in contemporary political life? How does age-based inequality intersect with other forms of social stratification driven by economic class, gender, race/ethnicity, migration, or educational status? And, ultimately, how, if at all, will shifting demographic trends undermine the legitimacy and feasibility of capitalist democracy? Will Democracy survive in an Age of Shifting Demographics.

The 2015 Meridian 180 International Conference, held on March 31 in Seoul, brought together scholars, professionals, and policymakers from East Asia, the U.S., and Australia to address these and other related questions. The conference was centered on the following three panel topics:

1) Values and Ethics - Hope, Empathy, & Human Flourishing
What are the societal obligations toward the older generation that is becoming an economic "burden?" What are the key moral and ethical considerations underlying policy debates about productivity, provision and human dignity?

2) The Promises and Shortcomings of Redistribution Policies
How do we better allocate resources among generations through welfare, taxation, health care and local government policies? What are the possible legal and economic policy tools available in effectively mediating conflicts between different generations?

3) Fairness and Equality
To what extent is the justice imperative of "power to the people" undermined on the one hand by the challenges of gerontocracy and on the other hand by the abandonment, in some societies, of the elderly by the young? What role does law play in creating the conditions for justice across generations? What theories of democracy, and of the relationship of law to society, best illuminate the challenges of aging societies? Are our societies a result of political compromises entered into by different generations behaving rationally out of self-interest?

Related Articles:

Forum Summary – Is Democracy Sustainable in an Aging Nation?

Cornell Law School Spotlights:
“How Do We Protect Democracy as Populations Age?” Ask Meridian 180 Members at Conference in Seoul, May 7, 2015

Haejoang Cho on the 2015 Meridian 180 Conference 
Meridian 180, An Experiment in Global Higher Education (in Korean)
The Hankyoreh, April 7, 2015 

Interview with Meridian 180 Director Annelise Riles
In Aging Societies Democracy May Face Challenges (in Korean)
The Seoul Sinmun, April 1, 2015 

Korea Times Article on the 2015 Meridian 180 Conference
Ewha Hosts a Conference with Cornell 
Korea Times, April 1, 2015