Citizens United President David Bossie outside the Supreme Court after it ruled on the campaign-finance reform case (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
"If men were angels," James Madison wrote in Federalist #51, "no government would be necessary." And if Americans were attentive and informed about the workings of government and current debates about policy, campaigns would barely be necessary. We could just peruse the documents on candidates' websites, read their résumés, perhaps watch a debate or two, and we'd all know for whom to vote.
If Democrats end up losing the House next week, as seems likely (though not certain), it's obviously going to bring a period of calm, reason, and cooperation to Washington. Just kidding, of course -- as I argued last week, the Republicans who get elected are going to be even more conservative than the already extremely conservative caucus, and less willing to compromise. Not only that, the ones who've been around for a while will be terrified of getting a primary challenge from the right, and so will be even more likely to give in to their base's demands.
Yesterday's New York Times contained an interesting article by a couple of psychologists detailing some experiments they've done on the political effects of disgust:
In an experiment conducted recently by Erik Helzer, a Cornell Ph.D. student, and one of us (David Pizarro), merely standing near a hand-sanitizing dispenser led people to report more conservative political beliefs. Participants who were randomly positioned in front of a hand sanitizer gave more conservative responses to a survey about their moral, social and fiscal attitudes than those individuals assigned to complete the questionnaire at the other end of the hallway.
To follow up on Tim's post below: One complaint conservatives often make about American tax rates is that the corporate rate is so high (35 percent) that it prevents investment and destroys jobs. Liberals counter that 35 percent may be the nominal rate, but once corporations are done exploiting all the loopholes, they don't pay anything near that. In fact, many don't pay anything at all. Let's take General Electric -- they made $10.3 billion in profits in 2009, and how much did they pay in taxes? Nothing. Or rather, you paid them -- they got a $1.1 billion rebate from the IRS.
The young'uns among our readers may not remember, but a few years back there was this show called The West Wing, in which a president who was not only a liberal intellectual -- a Nobel Prize-winning economist at that -- but also extraordinarily eloquent, principled, and politically savvy, went about pursuing liberal goals and meeting crises with aplomb. It was a liberal fantasy, since President Bartlett was everything we wanted a president to be. And in one series of episodes, Bartlett actually went after his opponent for re-election for being a simpleton who advocated simplistic solutions to complex problems. Here's a sample: