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Philip Howard in the Daily Beast: The Cure to Irresponsible Public Discourse Is to Restore Authority

Writing in the Daily Beast, and discussing New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson’s new book, Common Good Chair Philip Howard explains how the breakdown of authority has turned public discourse into a shouting match:

Public discourse is a cacophony because the words don’t matter. There’s no decision-maker to persuade or to hold you accountable. The disappearance of authority was no accident. After the 1960s, we reorganized government to avoid fallible human judgment by replacing human authority with thick rulebooks. That’s why government is a tangle of red tape where no one can do much of anything. Critical infrastructure projects languish on drawing boards because no official has authority to give a permit. Schools are chaotic because teachers must prove in a due process hearing that Johnny threw the punch. In government without human authority, irresponsible actions have few consequences, and irresponsible words have no consequences. Yell, hiss, lie… whatever.

The solution, Howard concludes, is to empower people, and government officials in particular, to ask and act upon this question: “What’s the right thing to do here?”

Click here to read Howard’s full essay—and click here to read more about his proposed solution on the “Who’s in Charge Around Here?” campaign site. You can sign up for the campaign at Take-Charge.org. You can also follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: #TakeCharge.