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A Guide to the Dialogue on Democracy

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As I write, this dialogue on the splendors and miseries of democracy has been going on for nine installments, with a tenth soon to appear. I’m writing this post first of all to provide a place where every entry will be linked; I’ll update here every time I post something new, so please bookmark this URL if you want to keep track.

But I also want to take this opportunity to answer a few questions that I’ve been getting about the series. Herewith:

So how long is this going to go on?

Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t have a plan; I’m just watching the conversation unfold according to its own internal logic and impetus. At least, that’s how it seems to me. At some point, like all conversations, this one will peter out, but whether that’s in two weeks or a year from now, I can’t say.

Why these two characters, A and B?

A while back, when I started reflecting on my own discouragement about the state of our democracy, I thought: Well, what are the alternatives? And, believing as I do that socialism, communism, and absolute monarchy have been tried and found wanting, I decided that the two most interesting alternatives to our current system are those promoted by the neoreactionaries and the distributists. And then I wondered what might happen if I put those two in conversation with each other.

But you’re B, right?

Not really, no.

So you’re A?

Not him (or her) either. Maybe I’ll know better what I am when I finish with this. My preoccupation at the moment is to try to allow each to make the best case possible for his (or her) position, and in the process to exemplify, as best I can manage it, constructive and charitable debate.

Do you think that neoreactionaries and distributists will agree that you’ve portrayed them fairly?

Many will not, I’m sure. But you know, not all neoreactionaries are the same, and not all distributists are the same. Each movement has a bigger tent than the outsider might at first think. I’ve tried to create figures who are more irenic than strident, willing to concede flaws in their preferred systems, and disinclined to assume bad faith in those who disagree with them; and in that sense, sad to say, these may not be typical figures. I’m sure many people will think I haven’t provided the best arguments, and that may well be true. I just hope the conversation will be interesting and useful.

But these two will continue to be the only participants?

I’m not sure about that. Someone else may be listening in.

Kinda curious that this post is also a dialogue.

Yes, but in this one I’m definitely speaking for myself. Anyway, here are the links to the installments so far:

about the author

Alan Jacobs is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the author most recently of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography.

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