HKS Professor Archon Fung says we’ve entered a dizzying period of wide-open discourse where traditional elites in politics, media, and academia are being shoved aside by a distrustful public.
Featuring Archon Fung
February 3, 2020
39 minutes and 4 seconds
Democratic governance expert Archon Fung says that since 2016 we have entered a political era dramatically different from the previous 35 years. He calls it a period of “wide aperture, low deference democracy.”
In simplest terms, it’s a time when a much wider range of ideas and potential policies are being debated and when traditional leaders in politics, media, academia, and culture are increasingly being questioned, pushed aside, and ignored by a distrustful public.
And while developments including social media proliferation and the rise of disinformation have shaped this political moment, he says the fate of those leaders and elites is also significantly of their own making, because they have supported self-interested policies that have resulted in the largest levels of economic inequality since the Gilded Age and a government that is responsive to the wealthy but not to ordinary citizens.
“The growing of the pie has not been even at all,” Professor Fung tells PolicyCast host Thoko Moyo. “And that causes some significant dissatisfaction in the institutions that are supposed to govern.”
Professor Fung says it’s too early to say whether this era marks our democracy’s demise in favor of authoritarianism, its rebirth as something better, or a state of purgatory where things stay in this “crazy, anxious state” for a while. Some first steps toward avoiding that fate and creating what he calls a “deeper democracy,” he says, include popular mobilization in support of democracy and steps to “create experts and leaders we can really believe in and find trustworthy.”
Professor Fung is the Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government at Harvard Kennedy School. He co-directs the Transparency Policy Project and leads democratic governance programs at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. His research explores policies, practices, and institutions that help make democracy work better.
This episode is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.
Thoko Moyo: So you've written a paper that examines the political moment that we're in. You're exploring a period that we've entered in the past three or four years, which is dramatically different from the previous, say, 40 years, and you call it a period of wide aperture, low deference democracy. Let's just start with a first piece, wide aperture. What does that actually mean? What are you talking about then?
Archon Fung: Yeah. So, you know, I first started writing this paper as a way to sort out in my own head what I thought about the state of democracy that we're in. And probably like a lot of people around the Kennedy school and maybe some people listening to this podcast were a little confused and feeling a fairly high state of anxiety about looking around at the democratic scene that we're in. But what exactly is different from the moment that came before and what is the moment that came before?
Thoko Moyo: And this is in the US and across the world, right?
Archon Fung: Yeah. I am thinking, mostly I'm thinking about the US but I think many of these ideas are, the sensibility also applies to what's happening in places in Europe, especially England, but also other places.
And the first characteristic that I see happening is I describe it as a wide aperture world. And for some of you some of your listeners who are a little bit younger maybe you don't know what an aperture is. The aperture is the hole in an old film camera. And the wider the hole is, the more light it lets in and the narrower the hole is, the less light it lets in. And I'm thinking of the prior era in a democratic governance, which I'm thinking of roughly 1980 to 2016 in the United States from Reagan to the end of the Obama era as you like, if you like, as a fairly narrow aperture world in which in the halls of Washington or among political leaders or experts, there's a fairly narrow range of debate between the center left and center. Right. And after 2000 and and 2016, that is after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States and in our current democratic primary season, it's a very wide aperture world in the sense that the range of political and policy ideas that are on the table is much, much broader than in that prior era.
And indeed in that prior era, many, many of these ideas by leading national figures would have been regarded, indeed were regarded as ridiculous or rather absurd, certainly not feasible, not worthy of discussion among a serious policy.
Thoko Moyo: Give me an idea of some of these ideas that just would not have made it to the table.
Archon Fung: Sure. So a one idea ... I'll begin with a couple of them. One is Andrew Yang's idea of the universal basic income, which, it's not his idea actually. The one of the first people to propose it in a rigorous way is a philosopher named Phillipe Von Paris. And a famous article famous among philosophers called “Should Surfers Be Fed?”
Thoko Moyo: Should surfers be fed?
Archon Fung: Should surfers be fed? And his question was, "Would it be the right thing to do in public policy for a Malibu surfer, who all he or she wants to do is surf all day, has no interest in working to receive a universal basic income?" That is from the government, a check of however much you want, maybe five $10 000 a month so that he or she could continue surfing. Would that be a good public policy? And Phillipe said, "Yes indeed, that would be a good public policy. We should adopt the universal basic income." And I remember talking about the universal basic income to friends at the Kennedy school and two in one, all of them regarded as absurd, "Why would you even be talking about that?" And now one of the democratic primary candidates, his major platform proposal is a universal basic income.
Archon Fung: Andrew Yang of course, is not one of the two or three leaders in the democratic primaries according to polls right now. But senators Warren and Sanders are. Senator Warren has notably proposed significant proportion of seats on corporate boards be representatives of labor and organized labor.
Thoko Moyo: Right.
Archon Fung: And that proposal I think is novel for the United States, not for Europe, but novel for the United States. And I hadn't heard anybody in the Obama administration or prior administrations consider that proposal seriously. And my intuition is that it would not have been taken seriously in the pre 2015, 2016 era, similar to a wealth tax, or indeed Medicare for all, which is itself a novel proposal. And on the right wing of the spectrum, of course you have a lot of proposals, a lot of policies now being pursued by the Trump administration. Which is center-right administrations, and center-right leaders certainly didn't regard as very sensible policies prior to the election of Donald Trump.
Thoko Moyo: You say in your paper that a lot of mainstream institutions have been leapfrogged by this course of events. What does that actually mean? What do you mean by that?
Archon Fung: Well there are mainstream institutions like the Democratic party, and the Republican party, and policy intellectuals in social policy, and foreign policy, and economic policy, and social policy. We've all keyed our thinking to that prior era. Of course you have to if you want to engage in serious policy debates with the policy thinkers and the available politics of the day, and so have reformed groups like the more conservative side, the American enterprise, Institute or the heritage foundation, on the more progressive side center for a new America, or center for American progress, or reform groups like common cause of which I am on the board, full disclosure, we all keyed our discussion and our thinking to center-left and center-right policy discussions. And if you're a conservative advocate, you're trying to pull the center-right a little more to the right, and if your left, or progressive advocate, you're trying to pull the center-left a little more to the left.
Thoko Moyo: But it's a lot wider now.
Archon Fung: But it's a lot wider now. And if you look at the national debate in the United States, I believe what's happened is that the national debate and discussion on both the right, if you like, and certainly on the progressive side have leapfrogged the advocacy groups and the policy intellectuals of that prior era. And so even organized labor wasn't talking about, seriously, it wasn't a major proposal to advance the idea of labor representation on corporate boards, right? So in that sense they've been leapfrogged by Senator Warren.
Thoko Moyo: And so unprepared, so they don't know how to react to that or think about it.
Archon Fung: They're adjusting, some of them. But I think for all of us who have been accustomed to the prior decades of a relatively constrained debate, it is stretching our intellectual muscles and sometimes emotional muscles.
Thoko Moyo: So what's the implication of this? And we'll come back in a minute after we've talked about low deference, how we actually got here. But I'm just curious to hear as we talk about this. Surely one hearing the idea of wider range of ideas at the table, wider inclusion of more diverse perspectives, one could say is a good thing, what are the implications? What do you think about all of this happening?
Archon Fung: How you come down on whether the wider aperture is a good or bad thing, and I think there are good and bad aspects to it, depends on whether you think the views that were excluded from the narrow aperture were excluded for good reasons or bad reasons.
Thoko Moyo: Right.
Archon Fung: So if you think with the wisdom of hindsight, and everything you can muster to bear on the question that, yes, the reasonable positions that would be discussed in an advanced industrial democracy are those positions that are covered by the center-left to the center-right. Between 1980 and 2016. Yeah, we basically had the debate, right. And that was what reasonable people well informed people should discuss. Then you think the wide aperture world is a disaster, because all of these views come in and they're either irrational views, or wildly implausible views, or discriminatory views, and they were excluded in the prior era.
Archon Fung: And you think from this perspective, they were rightly excluded. And now it's a terrible thing that all of these views are coming in. I happen to think that usually, all things being equal, a wider debate is better for small-d-democracy than a smaller debate. And that some of the views entering the debate right now are views that were improperly disregarded during the more stable period from 1980 to 2016.
Thoko Moyo: And we'll examine that in a bit more detail when we talk about, "How did we actually get here? What were some of the features that actually led us to to this kind of situation?" But let's go to the second piece if your paper, which is the low deference. So what are you talking about there and what do you mean?
Archon Fung: So this I'm a little bit less sure about, and I'd be interested in what your listeners think. I think that a second major change, a second characteristic of the post 2016 era, and it's been coming for a long time, is that we live in quite a low deference world in which many people from many walks of life are deeply suspicious of organized institutions and hierarchies of status, or intellectual achievement, or expertise, or political accomplishments. So just in the political domain. One way in which this is a low deference world is that many of the leaders ascending to the national stage, or close to it, are people who come almost from the margins of the political apparatus and the political parties that they nominally serve. So I regard Donald Trump is definitely a political insurgent from the point of view of the mainstream of the Democratic ...
Thoko Moyo: Republican ...
Archon Fung: ... I'm sorry, of the Republican party at that time. I regard senators Warren and Sanders as coming from the fringes of the mainstream of the democratic party. I regard Jeremy Corbyn ...
Thoko Moyo: In the UK that's right.
Archon Fung: ... In the UK. And even Boris Johnson as not the candidates that the party Stalwarts would have immediately preferred, and even although relatively centrist in policy terms, Emmanuel Macron in France, his great political achievement, or what happened in that election is, he decimated the main political formations that had dominated French politics for most of the post war period. And so this is politically right now for the last few years, the era of the insurgent candidates on the national stage and that insurgency is a manifestation of low deference politics. And that low deference politics reflects low deference for many received institutions. In the United States public opinion polls show very low trust in mainstream media. I think the average respondents, in one Pew survey, something like a quarter to 30% of Americans trusted mainstream media a lot. And it's something like 12% or 13% of Republicans, and 33% of Democrats, or something like that. So trust in media is very, very low. Trust in Congress has been low for some time, but is in, I think, the teens on a good day. So trust in a lot of these institutions is quite low.
Thoko Moyo: You mentioned college as well? That there's no trust in some quarters of the net positive of universities and colleges?
Archon Fung: Yeah, Pew conducted an interesting survey a couple of years ago, I think it was only a year ago, in which they asked, "Do you think colleges and universities have a net positive or negative effect on the nation?" And the result was something like 67% of Democrats and Democratic party identifiers, leaner, thought that colleges and universities had a net positive effect, and only about 35% of Republicans and Republican leaner thought colleges and universities had a net positive effect on the nation.
Thoko Moyo: Isn't it stunning?
Archon Fung: It's remarkable, higher education, you think of an institution serving our society as a whole. And yet there are these very polarized views right in this moment.
Thoko Moyo: And is there any research around why this might be, what's happening to cause this sort of mistrust?
Archon Fung: There's quite a bit of research around polarization, and there's a debate about how much polarization, especially at the popular level there is exactly, we've known for a long time, at least since the 80s and 90s that public trust in many of these institutions is declining. So that's pretty well established, but people debate a lot about what the causes of that decline in trust are.
Thoko Moyo: But you see it across, I mean you also see polarization in things like religion. You see that there's, different ... The military, institutions that are supposed to serve everyone, you also see a sort of polarization there as well.
Archon Fung: Yeah. In crude terms, in very crude terms, at a very high altitude, I think that many American institutions that are meant to—that we would like to—serve the whole society are themselves becoming politically polarized. And I think professional journalism and universities, higher education, cleaves left and many churches, and the military and veterans cleave right. And of course there are lots of veterans and lots of people of many faiths who vote democratic and progressive, and there are lots of people in universities, and in the media who are conservative, but as a general pattern, I think at a first order of approximation there's something to be very concerned about there.
Thoko Moyo: Okay. So let's bring them together. So we have the wide aperture sort of environment, low deference to expertise and sort of political hierarchy, how did we get here?
Archon Fung: Yeah. So I think that some of the causes of how we got here have been bubbling along for many decades, and perhaps what we're seeing is the bubbling over of some of those forces. And some of the forces are shorter term, more like a shock, a couple of features in the United States. I think the dynamics are definitely different in Europe, but one feature of the American politics and political economy since the mid 1970s, has been rising inequality. And this has been very, very well established by lots and lots of scholars from social science, and economics, and levels of inequality now are at the levels during the gilded age and right before the great depression. And so if you think that a hallmark of successful governance, democratic governance is that it creates prosperity that everyone benefits from, our governance over the last 30 or 40 years has not been successful on that dimension.
Archon Fung: And because as manifest by inequality, the pie has been growing for over those decades.
Thoko Moyo: But the sharing of the prosperity-
Archon Fung: The sharing of the growing of that pie has not been even at all. And so I think that causes some significant dissatisfaction in the institutions that are supposed to govern well. A second long-term feature, and on this I rely on some political scientists in particular, Marty, Martin Gilens, who wrote a great book, Affluence and Influence, but then he's also joined by Ben Page, recently Benjamin Page, and other political scientists in trying to examine the responsiveness of government. And responsiveness is a simple measure, democratic responsiveness, the idea is that if a greater percentage of the population wants a policy to happen, it should be more likely that government enacts that policy, and if not very many people want some policy to happen, there should be a low probability that government enacts it, and that's the definition of democratic responsiveness.
Thoko Moyo: Kind of makes sense.
Archon Fung: Kind of makes sense. Democracy should do many things, but I think most people think it should be responsive to the will of the people. And Martin Gilens in his book tried to measure the responsiveness of US policy over many decades. And what he did, he took a subset of policies on which people who are better off generally have different views from those that are less well off ,sort of tax policy, some kinds of social policy, and what he found was that government is not at all responsive to the middle of the income distribution. So for the, median voter or the person at the middle of the income distribution, that set of people, it doesn't matter whether 90% of Americans want something to happen, or 10%, it's kind of a coin flip. The government is just not responsive on that set of issues for which people who are better off have different views from people who are less well off.
Archon Fung: But he found that public policy on those kinds of issues is very responsive to a subset of the population. It's very responsive to the top 10% of the population.
Thoko Moyo: Well and that's government regardless of who's in office, Democrat or Republicans.
Archon Fung: That's right. That's right. It doesn't matter who's in office so that center-left, center-right. Kind of consensus that I talked about, that I characterize as extending from 1980 to 2016, has that feature or is coincident with that non-responsiveness to the general population, but high level of responsiveness to people at the top of the income distribution.
Thoko Moyo: It's kind of a justification for people being quite annoyed.
Archon Fung: You'd think so. I think probably most people don't know these general statistics. I would think that's probably true, but maybe they feel it at some level.
Thoko Moyo: So another feature of how we got here, you talk about media revolution I think?
Archon Fung: Yeah. So a third feature, and this again is the subject of much discussion, is that the nature of news and information has changed. And so I think one of the stabilizing features, one of the features that kept political and policy discussion within a relatively narrow aperture in that earlier period before 2016, was that the media environment was relatively concentrated, and professional journalists, and editorial boards kind of shared a sensibility, that was not unlike professors at the Kennedy School, or people in the center-left or center-right of Congress, or many, many other professionals in policy and politics. We all were in that center-left, center-right kind of consensus, including a lot of journalists.
And so part of the reporting and informational environment stabilized the discussion within those center-left and center-right boundaries, and the advent of social media, and proliferation of new sources on social media, and where people get their news, and on the internet, on sources other than professional journalism, I think enables a couple of things to happen, and enables the policy and political aperture to widen. And it enables political entrepreneurs, especially president Trump, was I think especially effective at this, and pioneered some of the methods of reaching audiences directly without the intermediary of professional journalists.
Thoko Moyo: But you can't have the discussion without actually mentioning that before where we are today, that narrow the filtering by the professional journalists did have its issues as well, because you had a filtering out of ideas that did not represent the journalists that were there for instance, so maybe a class bias or, I mean there was something about, in that environment as well, there was an exclusion that wasn't necessarily beneficial. If you look at a glass half full, glass half empty. I don't know if that-
Archon Fung: I completely agree. When I started looking at this just a little bit, my admiration for the news and professional journalism grew immensely, it was already quite high, but it grew immensely, thinking about a whole industry, and a whole profession that was devoted to getting both sides of the story, and holding power accountable to truth, and getting it right, and apologetic, amazingly with, a great deal of humility, apologetic most times when professional journalists didn't get it right and in print. And so that's extremely admirable. And does perform the social focusing feature of focusing public attention on what they regarded as the issues of the day.
Thoko Moyo: Yeah, the editors.
Archon Fung: The editors, certainly very, very important. However, and this comes in a paper that I wrote recently with a colleague, Josh Cohen. There were some blind spots.
Thoko Moyo: Yeah.
Archon Fung: And so in the civil rights era, reporting on race issues in the mainstream, white then, media was very, very different from reporting that occurred in predominantly African American outlets like the Amsterdam news for sure. Jim Fallows in his book, Breaking The News, argues that as economic and social inequality rose, there became a tier of relatively elite journalists who shared the views of other elites, and at that moment there was a shift in which labor reporting became much more scarce. And the reporting that did happen about labor was far less sensitive and sympathetic to pro labor causes. John Taller and others looking at foreign policy reporting.
I'll miss the quote, but the paraphrase is something like professional journalists indexed on official policy positions, so that is, criticism of the Vietnam war was very late to come in the quality press, and notoriously reporting on weapons of mass destruction before the American invasion of Iraq was notably poor, and one sided, with a few exceptions.
Thoko Moyo: So that's a good sense of how we got here. So what happens next? How does this all end?
Archon Fung: So one of the reasons I began thinking about these issues was, I was dissatisfied with much of the current discussion about, dilemmas of democracy suggest that there are two possibilities, and the possibility that many, many people worry about is a decline to some sort of populism and authoritarianism in which democratic norms and practices are very, very much weakened and perhaps eventually disappear and become something else all together. So that's path one, a possibility as an authoritarian decline.
Thoko Moyo: Feels real.
Archon Fung: I'm very concerned about that too. I don't think it's the only path forward, I think it's one possibility that we need to be very vigilant about, and defend the basics of democracy, very, very strongly. However, if that's the main path that you're concerned about, and in your head as, "Oh, we're in trouble if we go there." Then I think the implicit alternative to that is a return to how it was before the 2015, 2016 era. A kind of return to normalcy in scare quotes if you like. And part of the reason that I thought about the prior era as a narrow aperture war era, and the current era as wide aperture, is I wanted to highlight some features of that prior era that weren't so small-de democratic that that should raise some cause for worry, and say that indeed some of the features of those prior decades gave rise to the current situation that we're in, and so that may be returning to that prior, what you like to think of as a normal wouldn't be so great.
In the paper that I wrote, I kind of laughingly called that, “The Empire Strikes Back,” is that path is, “The Empire Strikes Back,” because of the features of inequality and non-responsiveness, and a friend of mine, a colleague who read the paper, who served in several administrations said, "Well, why are you so tough on it? Why don't you call it “Return of the Jedi?" And I thought that was a really good point, because it depends on your perspective. It depends on how good or bad you thought that prior center-left, center-right consensus was, and it depends on what you think the future holds. And if the future looks dark, and you think the center-left, center-right consensus was by and large the right bounds of debate, and with all of the economic and social and political constraints we face, doing a pretty good job of solving social problems, then returning to that era would be “Return of the Jedi.” I just happen to think I'm just more critical of those prior decades, but I can see the point definitely, why some people would regard it as Return of the Jedi, I think of it a little bit more like “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Thoko Moyo: Okay. And what other options are there? I think you talk about another scenario of a deeper democracy.
Archon Fung: Yeah. I think there are two other possibilities.
Thoko Moyo: That's right.
Archon Fung: One possibility I call purgatory. Which is that things kind of stay like they are now in this 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, world of very wide aperture, very confusing, for me anyway, and for many people I talk to, very exhausting, very anxious, because it's just hard to know where things are going, and they could be going a lot of different ways. And initially when I was writing the paper I thought, "Well, it's not going to be purgatory, because this moment seems like a transition moment. It feels quite unstable."
But when I've talked to several audiences about this and I asked them, "Well, which of the futures do you think is most likely in the next, say five, seven years?" Most people respond purgatory. Most people think it's going to stay in this crazy anxious state for a while. So who knows? That's a possibility. And then the fourth possibility I point out as a possible future world, is a deeper democracy, in which government is more responsive, and in which we consider the full range of ideas that are backed by good reasons, and might advance what people want in the general population, and might advance justice and the common good. And I'm, I'm definitely for that deeper democracy. Number four.
Thoko Moyo: And what would it take to have that particular future? What's it going to take to get there to a deeper democracy?
Archon Fung: I think the aperture would have to narrow a little bit, and deference, not quite deference, but trust in institutions, and experts, and leaders, would have to increase a little bit to get to that deeper democracy. And so it is rather daunting to think about what that would require.
Thoko Moyo: Because it's quite deep. The distress, if you think about it, and you've mentioned this, that some of the distrust comes from issues like, "The expert got us into messes like the financial crisis, climate change, et cetera." So it's quite deep, the skepticism, and reversing that does sound daunting as you say.
Archon Fung: It is daunting. I think that one thing that it would require is a much more robust, popular participation in mobilization, in a very widely spread and energetic way. And that's because I think that popular mobilization creates a kind of counterweight to concentrated political and economic power. And so I just think that popular mobilization, and popular participation is a very, very important ingredient on the way to a deeper democracy. Second, and this is, I think, at least what I'm trying to invest some of my energies as a teacher at the Kennedy School about, is creating experts and leaders we can believe in again. And I think it takes a fair amount of emotional energy for students at the Kennedy School and Kennedy School faculty, and the senior executives who come through to fully embrace the idea that we don't enjoy a lot of trust, or a lot of affection out there.
And so the, the first is, I don't know what this, the stages of grief are, but first is overcoming that denial, I think is an important thing. And then the second is trying to seriously ask what it would take to rebuild a trust and to become trustworthy of the public trust once again. And I think it requires figuring out ways to be authentic, but also exercising a great deal of integrity. And integrity, I think it's an easy word to say, but in the institutional conditions that we're in, hard to come by. And I think it's especially hard to come by, because, my friend Larry Lessing has written volumes about a phenomenon that he calls institutional corruption. So his idea is that institutions are meant to do things. The medical industry is meant to heal people, and produce technologies, and methods, and procedures that make us healthier. Higher education is meant to educate people and bring out the best ideas. And research is supposed to get to the truth, right? And so we have many, many institutions, but sometimes I think especially in an era of high inequality, those institutions, this is Larry's argument, become corrupted by the influence of money, and bent from their purposes. Congress is supposed to serve the general welfare, to pass laws and public policies that make us all better off. And the force of concentrated economic power sometimes exerts a gravitational pull, despite our best intentions, that pulls those institutions away from their purpose.
And there's nothing illegal about this. He's very clear about that, and that's a kind of corrupting influence. And in many organizations that are dependent, whether you're running a homeless shelter, or you're running a selective university, are subject to that gravitational pull of concentrated economic power. Everyone I know pretty much works in the nonprofit sector in some way, shape or form. And all of us directly or indirectly are dependent on philanthropy at some level of remove, which is not the same as the public interest. And so we have to be very, very careful about that, and find ways to become trustworthy, and become more authentic, and exercise integrity, and possess integrity.
Thoko Moyo: But that takes time and track record. I mean, you can't just say, "Trust me." And have people trust you. So what you're visualizing is something that will take time.
Archon Fung: It will take time. And I think we don't exactly know how to accomplish it under these ... Not only will it take time, I think it's maybe more fundamental than that. And so I think that is a deep, deep challenge. And so I think we need more energized people, but also experts and leaders we can really believe in and find trustworthy.
So I focused on more energetic participation from citizens and civil society, and then different kinds of leadership, because those are features that I guess receive a bit less attention. And most people think about institutional remedies and solutions, which are also very, very important. I don't think we can get to a deeper democracy without fixing and making more democratic, and creating equal opportunity, equal political opportunity, in our political institutions. And I also think that a democracy very, very critically depends upon an informational environment that is supportive, and truth oriented, and focuses on justice, and the common good. And I think that the enormous changes in the media environment from digital technologies have created an enormous challenge, that we in government, in society, in civil society, civil society, and the private sector, especially in the tech industries need to meet, that is, answer the challenge of, "How can we create an informational environment that is supportive of democracy rather than destructive of it." And I believe that we're only just now beginning to ask those questions in a serious way. And you won't create that environment. That environment won't occur, won't create itself. It will require deliberate, and very hardworking, very focused attention and effort from many parts of society.
Thoko Moyo: And would you say in some ways it's almost going back, and doubling down, and reaffirming the core principles of a democratic environment, because we talk about this strengthening institutions and making sure that you're thinking about the common good. This is what activists, are talking about all the time when they talk about democracy. So would you say that that's also, even as we think about the future, it's also a little bit going back, and doubling down on what we know to be the core of democracy. I don't know if you would agree with that or do you see it slightly differently?
Archon Fung: It's doubling down, but in a new way. I think one of the challenges of the current moment is the political polarization that we'd been talking about earlier. And I think a civic responsibility that's very difficult for activists on the right or the left to embrace, is the civic responsibility to try to explain yourself, and try to hear the arguments, and reasons, and perspectives of people who really, really disagree with you. And then as a news participant, as a participant on social media, I deeply believe that part of the civic responsibility that we all need to exercise is a moderation. So every time you see that post, or that meme that really fires you up and inspires you, take a deep breath and saying, "Wait, who is this excluding, and who is this separating me from?" And every time you see a post, or a meme, or a piece of alleged information that makes you really angry, take a deep breath and say, "What's really going on here? Is this true? Is somebody trying to make me think something for their benefit, and not for my own?."
And similarly, before now, unlike in the mass media era, where professional journalists, and editors were the bulk of content creators, we're all content creators now. And so I think we need to exercise a great civic responsibility to be oriented toward truth and to be oriented toward the common good, not just our own narrow perspective. Before we post things, before we like things, before we retweet things, before we make things that go viral, that end up dividing us further.
Thoko Moyo: Fantastic. Thank you so much.