In this great article in the Atlantic, on How the Government Lost its Mind, author Deborah Pearlstein describes how we’ve built a government unable to cope with a pandemic, and suggests how we can fix it. Core to her observations is the point that over time, we’ve failed to preserve the “tools essential to enlightened governance”. In my own words, the government has gotten stupid. Tellingly, she claims that this problem preceded Trump, and “cannot be fixed solely by his removal”. Ouch; that got my attention.
A major assertion is that, over time, “Congress has delegated increasing amounts of regulatory authority to expert executive-branch agencies”, and it’s become easier for those agencies to get packed with unqualified political-appointees. She also points to the sharp politicization of the federal courts, where extremist organizations “have become influential players in championing alternative channels of legal professionalization, up to and including the selection of judges to the federal bench”. So you have hacks and chumps running the business of governing.
In the article, the author suggests several concrete steps to re-establishing a working government, and it’s well worth a read. But as a “final step”, she points out that a fundamental problem is that the electorate itself is tragically ignorant. For example, recent surveys reveal nearly “75 percent of respondents could not name the three branches of the federal government at all. As long as ours is a representative government, this staggering degree of basic incapacity will be represented among our elected officials and their staff. Part of the correction here will require improved civic education in elementary and secondary schools; one in five states, for example, currently has no civics requirement for graduation at all.”