Can Democracy Be an Agent of Both Power and Goodness?

To Promote True Civic Virtue, Our System of Government Needs an Ethical Compass and to Actively Engage Citizens

Of all the political words that trip off our tongues yet bedevil understanding, one of the most important is “democracy.”

Strictly translated, it signifies authoritative power (kratos) by the citizenry or people (demos)—particularly the lower and middle classes—in the public affairs of a political order. Of course, this does not describe our reality.

We Americans live in a republic, whose laws are made by public officials in whom citizens invest power and authority, legitimating their power over the citizens who are governed. Citizens vote for their representatives, but there is …

Why Washington, D.C., Is the Most Undemocratic of Capitals

The City's Slaveholding Past, and Disenfranchised Present, Make Its Residents Dependents, Not Citizens

Every year about 20 million tourists come to Washington, D.C., to visit the marble monuments of American freedom and democracy. Few of them, however, realize that the 680,000 permanent residents …

Much Like Alcohol, Democracy Is Best in Moderation

Representative Governments Protect the Public from Its Own Ignorance

The open secret of democracy is that it works because it doesn’t quite work as advertised. Representative democracies do not simply impose the will of the people. They over-perform, producing …

Who Gets to Represent a Richer South L.A.?

A Place of Possibility Shouldn’t Remain a Pawn of the Establishment

There is more opportunity in South Los Angeles now.

You can see it in the houses, in the development, in the grocery stores finally arriving, in the people who—as I did …

Capturing Queer America, 30 Years After Mapplethorpe

Molly Landreth’s Portraits Recall Classic Images While Obliterating Familiar Narratives

In classic gay coming-of-age stories, the small-town misfit escapes to the big city—the bigger the better. Robert Mapplethorpe left his home in Floral Park, Queens for art school in Brooklyn …

In L.A., Political Representation Isn’t Enough

Instead of Grabbing for Their Own Share of Power, the City's Diverse Groups Now Aspire to Build Coalitions

In Los Angeles, our highest aspirations used to involve the struggle to obtain a share of the power, so that we Angelenos and our different dreams would be protected and …