The Age of Innocence - NYTimes.com

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Says Brooks: The American founders decentralized power. 'They built checks and balances to frustrate and detain the popular will. They also dispersed power to encourage active citizenship, hoping that as people became more involved in local government, they would develop a sense of restraint and responsibility,' a balance between self-doubt and self-confidence. They worked because there were structures that protected the voters from themselves and the rulers from themselves. Once people lost a sense of their own weakness, the self-doubt went away and the chastening structures were overwhelmed. It became madness to restrain your own desires because surely your rivals over yonder would not be restraining theirs. This is one of the reasons why Europe and the United States are facing debt crises and political dysfunction at the same time.'

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