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Who's in the Video

Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He is the author of The Righteous Mind and The Happiness Hypothesis.

Despite its faults, politics still gives Jonathan Haidt reason to hope.

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