FROM "Bowling Alone, Revisited," an essay by Robert D. Putnam in the spring issue of the communitarian journal The Responsive Community:
"It is one of history's real ironies that at the very moment when liberal democracy has swept the battlefield, both ideologically and geopolitically, growing numbers of citizens here at home are questioning the effectiveness of our public institutions. In the United States, at least, there is reason to suspect that this democratic disarray is linked to a broad erosion of civic engagement that began a quarter-century ago.
"Political philosophers nowadays are much preoccupied with what they term "deliberative democracy," in which public policy emerges from a civic conversation. Deliberation of this sort requires that we know one another well enough to weigh one another's views. Deliberative democracy is not merely about expressing opinions, and it is undermined by anonymity and incivility. it requires that we take responsibility for our own views and test them in give-and-take with others who take us seriously.
"In this sense, 'Ted from Toledo'style talk shows undermine deliberative democracy, while weekly conversations on bowling teams (as well as other, more elevated forms of social capital) can contribute to it. High on America's agenda should be the question of how to reverse the adverse trends in social connectedness I have described, thus restoring civic engagement and civic trust."