Election day special: Why democracy?

'Our Declaration' by Danielle Allen
'Our Declaration' by Danielle Allen
Book cover courtesy of publisher

An election day special which begins with a simple question: "Why democracy?"

Political philosopher Danielle Allen says democracy answers the basic human desire to shape our own lives, and that our democracy will be revived by civic engagement.

"Human Beings love liberty, and we all know that love of liberty is the desire to shape our own lives. To shape the direction and our own choices," Allen said.

A Harvard professor, Allen speaks about democracy's ancient roots and why she thinks a surge in civics can answer our current challenges.

In 1789, the Constitutional Convention decided to revive a form of government untried since the collapse of the Athenian democracy and the Roman republic in ancient times. Why? What problems does democracy solve, and what problems does it create?

How did the founding fathers account for the inherent contradiction of slavery within its democratic ideals? How did America's young democracy manage the peaceful transfer of power between bitterly opposed political factions, when so many modern democracies fail that test?

Guest: Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and Director of Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics; author of "Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality."

Co-host: Neal Conan served more than three decades as a reporter and host at National Public Radio.

Co-host: Heather Cox Richardson, a professor of history at Boston College and the author, most recently, of "To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party."

"The Democracy Test," from the "Truth, Politics and Power" series, distributed by APM, American Public Media.

To listen to the program, click the audio player above.

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