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Peter Beinart has been at The New Republic since 1999, where he is a journalist and editor-at-large. He is also a contributor to Time magazine and writes a monthly column[…]

Not broken but not working as well as it should.

Well I’m hesitant to word . . . use the word “broken” in the sense that if one looks at our political system in a comparative context, it is not broken. Which is to say you know . . . Isaiah Berlin talked about the “crooked timber of humanity”, meaning that human beings are not angels. Human beings . . . There are . . . There . . . And this is a conservative insight, but it’s an . . . probably . . . it’s an important insight, that there are . . . human beings . . . Any institutions that human beings create will probably be, to some . . . in some way broken; that human beings in a sense are born broken. We are not angels. So if you look at the degree to which other political systems historically, and other political systems around the world have been broken with massive violence perpetrated by the government against its own citizens, for instance; or widespread chaos and public disorder, our system is not broken. Our system is in historic . . . __________ historically quite astonishing if looked at in that context. But I do think that the American political system is not working as well as it could, and you might even argue not working as well as it has in past moments. And I think that is connected to the . . . the . . . the decreasing participation of Americans in their own government that we have seen since the 1960s or ‘70s, and the not unrelated increasing power in America’s political system of vested interest groups that use their . . . use their economic power to produce outcomes in government that the American people themselves would probably not approve of, and in many cases don’t even know about.

Recorded on: 9/12/07

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