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Democracy demands a capital city that represents a country and is not removed from it. If the government is to be of the people and for the people, then the capital must be able to relate to the people—and the people to the capital. In the United States, democracy struggles not just because of what happens outside of and comes to Washington, but because of what happens inside Washington. The federal government, in other words, faces democratic problems because of the type of place that Washington is. There are many factors to consider in deciding where a country should be governed from, but the ability of the capital to understand the country it governs is certainly one of the most important of these factors. The goal of this symposium article is to consider the contemporary democratic crisis in these geographical terms.

Washington was initially a rural area meant to govern a rural country. It has gradually turned into a dynamic metropolitan area meant to govern a country featuring many—and many different—dynamic metropolitan areas. During its entire history, though, Washington has remained dominated by a single company: the federal government. A company town will struggle to attract and to cultivate the large range of people featured in the United States. Given that a company town struggles to satisfy the democratic demands of a capital, the question then becomes whether other types of places would better satisfy these democratic demands.

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