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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 upcoming Meridian 180 conference in March 2015 seeks to address these and other related questions and topics. The conference will be held on March 31 in Seoul, Korea, co-sponsored by Ewha Law School and the Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture, Cornell Law School. The event will celebrate the committed partnership between the two institutions in working together to facilitate international and interdisciplinary dialogue on social, economic, political, cultural and legal issues facing the Pacific Rim and beyond. Specifically, as of November 12, 2014, Ewha Womans University became the Korea base for Meridian 180. Meridian 180's office at the Ewha Law School handles Korean translation, programming and outreach

The meeting in Seoul will build on the lively online discussions touched off by Professor Sung-In Jun 's post concerning the future of democracy in aging society, which will culminate in a quadrilingual book to be published by the Meridian 180 project. The conference will be centered on three separate yet related themes:

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?