America’s political institutions are suffering from profound decay. The political parties—especially the Republicans—have become so constrained by their activists and addicted to short-term one-upmanship that they are incapable of governing together. At the same time, the political power of the very wealthy and organized business interests has reached levels that undermine our legitimate expectations that the political system should be able to solve big problems and generate shared prosperity.
These twin phenomena are part of the same basic pathology—the capture of our governing institutions by concentrated interests and the weakening of the structures that aggregate and balance public preferences and channel expertise toward workable consensus.
They also have a similar cause: more than three decades of disinvesting in government’s capacity to keep up with skyrocketing numbers of lobbyists and policy institutes, well-organized partisans, and an increasingly complex social and legal context. Instead, policymakers have increasingly turned to the information and analytical capacity provided for them by those with the biggest material and ideological stakes in the outcome. This dependence has created a power asymmetry crisis that has been quietly building for almost four decades.