Notes on the Future of Our Democracy

About the Book

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A lively and bold blueprint for moving beyond the “era of institutional failure” by transforming our outmoded political and economic systems to be resilient to twenty-first-century problems, from the popular entrepreneur, bestselling author, and political truth-teller

“A vitally important book.”—Mark Cuban
Despite being written off by the media, Andrew Yang’s shoestring 2020 presidential campaign—powered by his proposal for a universal basic income of $1,000 a month for all Americans—jolted the political establishment, growing into a massive, diverse movement. 
In Forward, Yang reveals that UBI and the threat of job automation are only the beginning, diagnosing how a series of cascading problems within our antiquated systems keeps us stuck in the past—imperiling our democracy at every level. With America’s stagnant institutions failing to keep pace with technological change, we grow more polarized as tech platforms supplant our will while feasting on our data. Yang introduces us to the various “priests of the decline” of America, including politicians whose incentives have become divorced from the people they supposedly serve. 
The machinery of American democracy is failing, Yang argues, and we need bold new ideas to rewire it for twenty-first-century problems. Inspired by his experience running for office and as an entrepreneur, and by ideas drawn from leading thinkers, Yang offers a series of solutions, including data rights, ranked-choice voting, and fact-based governance empowered by modern technology, writing that “there is no cavalry”—it’s up to us. This is a powerful and urgent warning that we must step back from the brink and plot a new way forward for our democracy.
Read more

Listen to a sample from Forward

Praise for Forward

“Andrew Yang surged to popularity in 2020 because he saw—like none of the other presidential candidates—that our problems came from the complex interactions of democracy, economics, and technology. In this important book, he explains how these three domains interact and he proposes solutions that, when combined, would lead us forward to human-centered capitalism and a vibrant, just, and prosperous democracy.”—Jonathan Haidt
“Can there be another political party in the U.S.? Can we find a way past toxic partisanship to a fact-based government? In Forward, Yang does not just give us a laundry list of intractable problems, but shows how we can find solutions if we think in new ways and summon the courage to do so.”—Kara Swisher

Forward is a vitally important book that shows how entrepreneurial, independent thinking will be the indispensable ingredient to solving our biggest political and economic challenges.”—Mark Cuban

“It’s no wonder that ever since Yang burst onto the scene with a positive movement that spoke directly to the pain Americans are feeling, both parties have been taking his ideas. With Forward, Yang once again proves he is a necessary and powerful voice.”—Van Jones
“A powerful and compelling, beautifully written story of an American’s dream for a better America—with a clear account of how to get there.”—Lawrence Lessig

“Despite being ignored and written off by mainstream media, no 2020 candidate had more of an impact in changing our political conversation than Andrew Yang.”—Krystal Ball

“Yang is the most original thinker in the political scene.”—Scott Galloway

“Yang offers thoughtful, sensible proposals for a better democracy.”Kirkus Reviews

“Fascinating and timely . . . poised to make news.”—Booklist
Read more



Democracy By a Thread

Why isn’t it working? That’s a question millions of Americans have been asking about our country. For some time now, many of us have had this growing sense that our way of life and the shared beliefs and expectations that underpin our democracy have become endangered.

We sense that, somewhere along the way, the machinery of our democracy started faltering—and now it is failing.

Politicians tell us to vote and volunteer and endlessly beg us for donations. Many of us do these things. But it’s not doing the trick.

Despite doing all the “right things,” many of us are struggling more than our parents or grandparents did to gain a foothold in the middle class. The digital gadgets in our pockets keep becoming more sophisticated, but our basic ability to distinguish truth from fiction is eroding. We can no longer assume that fundamental functions of American democracy, like the smooth counting of votes on Election Day or the ability of Congress to pass laws, will occur. Some of us have stopped believing in science, while others have simply come to doubt the possibility that brighter days lie ahead. The unprecedented disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic laid our anxieties bare. Unity and consensus seem like fading dreams.

Many of us were surprised and horrified at the ascent of Donald Trump, and yet we sense, on some level, that the aggrieved mistrust and political anger he tapped into were real and will continue to
exist long after he’s gone. As I write this, there is a Democratic majority in D.C. with the slimmest conceivable margins, with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote in the Senate necessary to get anything done. Democracy hangs by a thread.

How did it come to this?

What happened to our belief in the future?

And, most important, what can we do about it?

I wrote the initial drafts of the chapters that became this book in a feverish stretch in the months following the end of my presidential campaign. I wanted to capture my experiences and what I learned while it was fresh in my mind, and I poured thousands of words a week onto my computer. Even with my presidential campaign over, my sense of urgency remained about the problems we face. Some of these were specific lessons from the campaign trail, like the perverse dance between presidential candidates and the media. Others reflect beliefs I’ve come to hold based on reading, interviews, and working with activists who have spent years trying to sustain our democracy. These initial bits of writing were like a series of mini-essays about the cascading, interrelated set of problems that are growing within our political process and way of governing. Over several drafts, which I completed in early 2021, I shaped these raw writings into proper chapters, stitching them together to form the tapestry of arguments you see here. I hope this book will inspire the same kind of deep reflection in you as my experiences over the past few years inspired in me.

My last book, The War on Normal People, was about the ongoing dehumanization of our economy and the need to adopt universal basic income (UBI) and how it offers us the best chance to evolve to the next stage of capitalism. That is probably how you first heard about me: as the 2020 presidential candidate who wanted to give everyone money.

The War on Normal People had a powerful but narrow goal: to address the crisis in our economy by promoting universal basic income. That book was published in the spring of 2018, just as I was beginning to campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Three and a half years later, I still have the same vision and concerns. If anything, the intervening years have reinforced my convictions about the perilous state of our economy and our democracy. But my perspective on what ails us and my vision for the future have also deepened and advanced based on what I’ve learned running for office. I now have a better sense of the challenges to our democratic process. Some of the warning signs of the health of our democracy are flashing red, while others lie hidden, like a bit of faulty wiring, waiting to blow.

This book reflects these advances in my thinking. Compared with The War on Normal People, the scope here is broader, the insights (I hope) are more nuanced, and yet the ultimate theme remains much the same: our economic and political order is facing unprecedented dangers, many of them brought on by new technologies, and only bold new leadership and policies have a chance to overcome decades of political dysfunction and leaders who are rewarded regardless of whether they rise to the challenge.

I’ve spent the lion’s share of the past four years on the move—talking to Americans, listening to their problems, and, through my organization, Humanity Forward, promoting cash relief and experimenting with it at the local level.

In addition to free money, the other thing you might have heard about me is that I’m a solutions guy. And after thousands of hours spent talking to my fellow citizens and thinking of the future, I have a sense of how we can put ourselves back on the path to prosperity.

This book is the road map. It’s about how to make that vision—and, by extension, any actual lasting change on a national scale—a reality. Not in the abstract, but for real. I’ve found the necessary lever, and I’m eager to share it with you.

About the Author

Andrew Yang
Andrew Yang was a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and a 2021 candidate for mayor of New York City. Named by President Obama as a Presidential Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship, he is the founder of Humanity Forward and Venture for America. Yang’s New York Times bestselling book The War on Normal People helped introduce the idea of universal basic income into the political mainstream. Yang is a graduate of Brown University, where he graduated with degrees in economics and political science, and Columbia Law School, where he was an editor of the Law Review. He lives with his family in New York. More by Andrew Yang
Decorative Carat