For those of us who think and write about democracy, few things are more appealing than a book about how to make it work better. My shelves are groaning with them.
They contain a lot of good and helpful ideas. There are proposals on how to improve elections and plans for strengthening legislative bodies, judicial systems and the rule of law. There’s a whole body of literature on how to make government and civil institutions stronger and more effective. There are ideas for buttressing the press and the public’s access to information, and schemes for improving the civic organizations, think tanks, watchdog groups and policy-focused nonprofits that make our democracy so vibrant.
But over time, I’ve concluded that as complicated as democracy’s workings might be, one thing matters above all else: effective leadership. It might not guarantee results, but without it, nothing much happens.
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