True cathedral projects can sustain such ambition because they are so broad: in their base of support, in the number and diversity of people and ideas that they bring together, in the number of experiments they contain. In doing that, they create and sustain the legitimacy that allows them to endure. Lose that and they're finished: anachronisms or pariahs that will dwindle and die. They remain public goods only as long as the public says so. In this, they are profoundly democratic.
Does that imply that democracy, too, is a cathedral project, one in which all of us are involved? Constructed over centuries, radical in conception, daring in ambition, sustained only by those who continue to believe in it. What we know of such projects is that, to endure, they require enormous openness to new ideas, a broad base of support, the ability to adapt and to change, a willingness to experiment, and to be febrile in their responsiveness to the unforeseen and unpredictable. Without that, they have no future. But with it, they may last for millennia.
-Margaret Heffernan, Uncharted: How To Navigate The Future