Here’s a fantastic article on the Washington Post about “Five myths on the debt ceiling”. Here’s the part I loved (or hated) the most.

On March 16, 2006, one Democratic senator in particular denounced George W. Bush’s request to raise the debt limit. “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” the senator thundered. “Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. . . . Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.”

That senator was Barack Obama, and he, along with most Democrats, voted against a higher limit that day. It passed only because almost every Republican voted for it, including many who are now among the strongest opponents of a debt-limit increase.

Even Obama couldn’t help become one of the foolish politicians. I wonder how every single politician, even those who used to be very bright people, can become so stupid once they win a seat in the Capitol.

I recently watched “The Contender”, a great movie about American politics. I strongly recommend it to everyone who is interested in how politicians operate behind the walls. The movie is about a vice president nominee who fights through hearings to prove that she is well-qualified. Instead of asking questions about her thoughts on various issues crucial to running the country, a number of Congressmen on the hearing committee use the opportunity to dig into her private life, trying to find any scandal that can stir the media and prevent any kind of productive debate on important issues.

I feel like this endless routine goes on and on in all democracies. Politicians fight not for a policy or ideology that can save the country, but merely to take their opponents down. Since their main goal is to get elected by winning over their opponents, the debates do not focus on the important issues, but instead on scandals related to their opponents’ private life that has nothing to do with how this country should go forward. Media also focuses on those scandals since they are easier to understand for the general public compared to complicated nation-wide issues. I wonder how many people will choose to click an article about a sex scandal versus an analysis on national debt. Moreover, media nitpick on minor wording mistakes that politicians make during a public speeches instead of focusing on the general theme. Do people really think giving good speeches with polished words is the most essential skill of a politician? It might seriously be better to give good-looking Hollywood actors some scripts and let them do the interviews and speeches, while the politicians focus on getting real work done.

I’m not saying we should ditch democracy, but I am confident there should be ways to improve it by changing the system. We can’t rely on the politicians to change by themselves because they are just like all of us; humans who try to maximize their gains while abiding by the rules of the whole system. They won’t change unless they are forced to do so under a new system. I am pretty sure there are quite a lot of interesting research from political science people on this topic. Trying to think of any political science person I know…

Which brings me to this question. Totally unrelated to political science, but I wonder if there’s any online service where you can type in a question like “political science research on fixing democracy” and gives you the list of people in town who can help you answer the question. I sometimes have these random questions spanning history, social sciences, technology etc that I can’t find much information on the web. It would be great if this kind of service is connected with LinkedIn.

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