Worrisome trends sometimes have their bright sides. For example, the abysmally low levels of confidence in large institutions -- from governments to the church to big corporations -- might be interpreted as a condemnation of those institutions. Dysfunction in Washington, 500 demonstrations a day in China, the Arab Spring, the Maidan revolution in Ukraine -- each of these may be taken as evidence for corruption and incompetence in high places. Such interpretations come with words like "crisis," and they evoke fear and pessimism. I'd like to suggest a more optimistic spin: that day by day, week by week, year by year we are experiencing a gradual but pervasive spread of individual autonomy and increasing confidence in personal judgment....
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