Liberal democracy cannot survive if the United States continues on its path of increasingly polarized political discourse, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned in an editorial on the Bloomberg website.
Healthy democracy is about living with disagreement, not eliminating it, Bloomberg wrote, but stressed there is a worrying trend of a retreat from liberal political discourse, particularly on college campuses.
Bloomberg gave an example of the controversy surrounding the University of Chicago's 2015 statement affirming the centrality of free speech, which stated, "the University's fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed."
Bloomberg noted that not long ago, this would have been seen as uncontroversial, yet more than four years later, only 67 institutions – out of more than 4,000 nationwide – have adopted or endorsed the Chicago Statement.
The lack of support for the Chicago Statement among leaders in higher education has helped permit intolerance to become more pronounced in the culture, and, "as a result, the range of views needing to be suppressed, rather than entertained, challenged and refuted, is vast."
Bloomberg argued that such an "approach that demands silence on contested issues, or that extends bitter political division into commerce and every other sphere of life, will succeed only in fracturing the country even more deeply."
"Restoring the ability to disagree without becoming mortal enemies is a new and urgent civic imperative," the billionaire concluded.
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