Question: Is the American political system broken?
Jonathan Haidt: Yes. It is very broken right now.
The main break, I believe, is simply the influence of money. It just astonishes me that when a representative from the National Science Foundation comes down to visit us, we cannot buy her a dinner. We cannot buy her a cup of coffee, because that might influence her decision.
That’s great, but if I want to give thousands and thousands of dollars to a Congressman, no problem. I can give as much as I want. Obviously there are limits. Of course, if I bundle things together, basically $9,000 per couple we can give now.
So from what I hear from politicians and from people who work with politicians, they have to spend most of their effort really is fundraising and pleasing donors. That means it’s broken.
So I think we desperately need to have massive public financing, reduce the cap on donations to something like $200 per person. There is no reason a person should get access to a politician because they give them money. That’s broken.
Recorded on: May 9, 2008