DiscoverThe Ezra Klein ShowThis Philosopher Wants Liberals to Take Political Power Seriously
This Philosopher Wants Liberals to Take Political Power Seriously

This Philosopher Wants Liberals to Take Political Power Seriously

Update: 2023-04-1411


America today faces a crisis of governance. In the face of numerous challenges — from climate change, to housing shortages, to pandemics — our institutions struggle to act quickly and decisively. Democratic processes often get captured by special interests or paralyzed by polarization. And, in response, public faith in government has reached a new low.

For the political philosopher Danielle Allen, this crisis requires a complete transformation of our democratic institutions. “Representation as designed cannot work under current conditions,” she writes. “We have no choice but to undertake a significant project of democracy renovation.” Allen’s most recent book — “Justice By Means of Democracy” — puts forth a sweeping vision of what she calls “power-sharing liberalism,” which aims to place political equality, power and participation at the center of liberal thinking.

But Allen isn’t just a theorist of liberal governance; she’s actively applying her insights in the real world. As the director of Harvard’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics, she’s convened interdisciplinary groups to tackle a range of challenges from building Covid-19 testing infrastructure to innovating in A.I. governance. She was co-chair of the “Our Common Purpose” commission, which put forward over 30 specific policy recommendations for reinventing American democracy. She even ran for governor of Massachusetts.

So this is a conversation about what it would mean to build a better, more responsive and inclusive government — and the numerous challenges standing in the way of doing that. Along the way, we discuss liberals’ failure to take power seriously, Colorado’s experiments with “plural voting,” Seattle’s efforts to publicly finance elections through “democracy bucks,” Taiwan’s groundbreaking innovations in deliberative democracy, whether most citizens actually want deeper participation in government — or just better results from it, what it would mean to democratically govern AI development and much more.


Introducing Power-Sharing Liberalism” by Danielle Allen

Movement vs. Abundance Progressives” by Misha David Chellam

How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

“Our Common Purpose” Report

How A.I. Fails Us

Book Recommendations:

The Darkened Light of Faith by Melvin L. Rogers

Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark

Open Democracy by Héléne Landemore

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Emefa Agawu, Jeff Geld, Kristin Lin, and Roge Karma. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Mixing by Jeff Geld. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero and Kristina Samulewski.

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This Philosopher Wants Liberals to Take Political Power Seriously

This Philosopher Wants Liberals to Take Political Power Seriously

New York Times Opinion