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Democracy Beyond Voting and Protests

Around the world, distrust of government and decades of declining civic engagement go hand in hand. To stem today's populist tide, public policies must encourage citizens to reconnect with shared institutions and with one another.

NEW YORK – For over a decade now, we have witnessed more elections and, simultaneously, less democracy. According to Bloomberg, elections have been occurring more frequently around the world. Yet Freedom House finds that some 110 countries have experienced declines in political and civil rights over the past 13 years.

As democracy declines, so does our sense of community. In the United States, this is evidenced by a looming loneliness epidemic and the rapid disappearance of civic institutions such as churches, eight of which close every day. And though these trends are global in nature, the US exemplifies them in the extreme.

This is no coincidence. As Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out in the 1830s, America’s founders envisioned a country governed not by shared values, but by self-interest. That vision has since defined America’s institutions, and fostered a hyper-individualistic society.

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