The Future of Democracy
To the Editor:
. . . Had Bruce D. Porter, in “Can American Democracy Survive?” [November 1993], looked longer at the evidence in pursuit of his question, he might have felt more alarm.
Mr. Porter cites “declining governability” as an incipient crisis, tracing it to budgetary and other economic problems, but he surprisingly concludes that these problems need not be destabilizing and may be “healthy.” There is no mention, however, of even more troubling sources of a grave erosion of legitimacy that is fundamental to democratic governance: the growing recognition among ordinary people of routine lying and deception by the state; the deepening chasm of distrust of officialdom and of officials’ explanations for their many failed promises and programs; the clientizing of citizens by remote and inaccessible bureaucracies. Loss of legitimacy is extremely serious (and hard to regain) because it strikes at essential allegiance, at respect for governing authority, and at the willingness of individuals and groups to cooperate without crude (and inefficient) coercion.
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