- Michael Shields
In this episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast host Michael Shields interviews Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University where she is also the principal investigator for the Democratic Knowledge Project. In 2020, she won the Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity, administered by the Library of Congress, that recognizes work in disciplines not covered by the Nobel Prizes. She is the author or co-editor of many books, including Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, and Democracy in the time of Coronavirus, which is the focus of this episode. In Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus Allen untangles the U.S. government’s COVID-19 victories and failures to offer a plan for creating a more resilient democratic polity — one that can better respond to both the present pandemic and future crises. Looking to history, Allen also identifies the challenges faced by democracies in other times that required strong government action. In an analysis spanning from ancient Greece to the Reconstruction Amendments and the present day, Allen argues for the relative effectiveness of collaborative federalism over authoritarian compulsion and for the unifying power of a common cause. But for democracy to endure, we — as participatory citizens — must commit to that cause: a just and equal social contract and support for good governance. In this episode Michael Shields and Danielle Allen explore what exactly an ideal social contract that serves as the basis for a functioning constitutional democracy would look like while examining how currently that social contract is fundamentally broken. They discuss how important leadership is when dealing with massive crises, how the prospect of a “common purpose” could be the most powerful tool in the democratic tool kit, how federalism can be an asset in trying times, what the federal and state governments should have done to combat Covid 19, and much, much more.
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