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Harvard Business School: The U.S. Political System Has Been 'Hijacked'

A new case study by Harvard Business School asserts that U.S. politicians have rigged the system to such a degree that the U.S. is on its way to becoming a failed democracy. (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

A new case study by Harvard Business School asserts that U.S. politicians have rigged the system to such a degree that the U.S. is becoming a failed democracy. The authors of the case-study use the word 'hijacked' to describe what the political parties have done to governance in the United States.

Some tidbits:

America’s political system was long the envy of the world. It advanced the public interest and gave rise to a grand history of policy innovations that fostered both economic and social progress. Today, however, our political system has become the major barrier to solving nearly every important challenge our nation needs to address. This was the unexpected conclusion of the multiyear Project on U.S. Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, established in 2011 to understand the causes of America’s weak economic performance and rising inequality that predated the Great Recession.

The authors point to a number of American pathologies that do not plague other advanced nations.

A similar failure to progress has also afflicted the nation’s social agenda. In areas such as public education, health and wellness, personal safety, water and sanitation, environmental quality, and tolerance and inclusion, among others, U.S. progress has stalled or gone in reverse. In these areas, where America was often a pioneer and leader, the U.S. has fallen well down the list compared to other advanced countries. Tolerance, inclusion, and personal freedom are registering troubling declines, a sign of growing divisions in our society.

A poorly educated

In public education, of particular significance for citizen opportunity, in math the U.S. was ranked 31st out of 35 OECD countries (the other advanced economies using the respected PISA process) in 2015, down from 25 in 2009, 20th in reading (down from 14) and 19th in science (down from 17).5 Instead of progress, then, our government is mired in gridlock and inaction. Increasingly over the decades, Congress has been unable to get things done, especially on important issues.

The authors of the piece note how the Founders of the United States would find the rules that govern the country unrecognizable today.

The result: America’s political system today would be unrecognizable to our founders. In fact, certain of our founders warned against political parties. John Adams, our second President, said, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.”2 Our founders— and most Americans today—would be shocked by the extent to which our democracy has been hijacked by the private and largely unaccountable organizations that constitute today’s political industrial complex.

As someone who is doing what he can as a voter to correct the issues in this study, I must say pritch 1961, you are part of the problem mentioned in the study. The study talks about not enough moderates, me, and too many people way out to one side or the other, pritch 1961. I have not voted for a GOP or Dem. candidate for a national office, be it President, Senator or Congressman for over a decade. For our problems to be corrected, we need 2 things to happen immediately. 1. Vote every Senator and Congressman out of office in, at least, the next 2 elections. Maybe by then they would realize that they work for us and not the lobbyists trying to buy their vote. 2. The establishment of a viable and strong 3rd party. Maybe I should add a third. A Constitutional amendment forcing politicians to live under the same laws that they pass for us. No exceptions for retirement, health insurance for anything else.


Say what? Did they need Harvard to do a case study to figure this out? All I had to do was watch the media stories, listen to a few political speeches, and watch things happen. No, pritch1961, the damage will not last only as long as 'the trump disease' is in the White House. Things have been going downhill for DECADES, and a change in presidents will not change that. The Congress is full of self-serving leeches who have been in there running the show for decades, and it is their lack of concern for the people they claim to represent, who have been stupid enough to continue voting them back into office in the deluded belief that the candidates' abuse of power will somehow profit them, when in reality none of them have any interest whatsoever in the citizens paying their inflated salaries, outrageous health care, and obscene retirement benefits. As long as those parasites are allowed to remain in office, they will convince the public over and over that everything wrong with this nation is the fault of somebody who has never been one of them and will soon be gone. Even a double term of eight years is nothing to the politicians in office for their lifetimes. I agree with Hoobuck except that I believe all political parties should be outlawed. Every candidate should be forced to stand for his/her own beliefs, ideas, and should be forced to fill out an application in essay form before being allowed to run for any office. I'm sick and tired of "I'm following the party platform." It's time they learn to work together for the common good instead of whoever gives them the most money.


Our government has failed to work for us since the Carter administration.... remember our "going metric" in the 1970s, with corporations terrorising everyone with threats of not knowing how much deli meat mom should order... what clothes to wear if it's 15°C, or how tall someone is.... it takes a week to figure things out. The real issue is that corporations did not want the one-time expense of re-tooling for metric, and that was it. We are still one of three countries in the modern world who use this antiquated American system.... with the other two being the economic super-powers Liberia and Burma.

As far as our "two" parties who serve the same corporate masters, they are both corrupt and completely opposite to our quality of life. Billy Clinton changed the Democrats into the New Democrats, chasing corporate donations. They, like the Republicans, will fight any function of government that threatens corporate profits (and their "donations"). The Democrats of California passed Universal healthcare through their Senate. Their Assembly pulled it from the floor so it will not pass and no one needs to be singled out for voting against it. This is pure, simple corruption.

The fix?

We must get rid of both Parties from the government. The Electoral College only allows two, major parties and they have rigged it so that other parties cannot gain traction. Ideally, there would be no need for political parties, but they will exist as a collective force working under similar idealogy. If we encourage Republicans to register as Independent or Libertarian and Democrats to register as Independent of Green, the two parties will disappear and go away.

From there, publicly funded elections, where every candidate running for an office will get the same budget for his/her campaign. Only that money can be spent on a campaign. What would we get for a politician? Someone who was the most effective candidate in getting his/her message to us, and under a budget. Effective, efficient, and accountable only to us.

Then, and only then, could we have any discussion on universal healthcare, a respectable public education, strong infrastructure, a responsible banking sector (imagine), a meaningful sustainable energy policy (we like to have our society sustained into the future... Right?)...

This has to be done collectively and quickly.


I agree with Plantiful. Our two party system is not what this country needs. But speaking from outside the government the people have been brainwashed to believe ideals such as Socialism is the same as Communism. People have been brainwashed to believe that others ideas are no good. Now with someone like Trump in the white house he is using the fact that there is a two party system to divide and conquer. You see within both parties they are beginning to split because of extremesists. Untill we either add other parties into the mix or get rid of parties all together will things change.

The other issue is big corporations as well as christianity has to much of a grip on our government. They shouldn't have a say in what happens in our government. We were originally set up so the American citizen could have a say essentially to what happens in our country. The line "for the people" no longer holds true, it's now "for the business". Capatalism sounds wonderful but it's not.

It is quite possible that we need to become a Socialist country and end being a democracy. We are not a democracy as it stands. We are an Oligarchy and a Plutocracy, but we are not a democracy.

It is time for change or change wont happen.


While the two party system has no doubt failed us, adding a third party or more won't truly help until we do 2 things. 1: One person, one vote. We absolutely have to rid ourselves of of a system that can allow a candidate who wins the election by almost 3 million votes to lose the election. This will also help to create greater voter turnout. I live in South Carolina, and many of my progressive friends don't bother to vote, because their vote has never counted. 2. We absolutely have to get the money out of politics. We have to stop allowing our elected representatives to be bought and paid for by corporate interests if we are ever to have any chance at a functional democracy again. Money is not speech, and it is even less so when the same people donate to both sides because they don't care who wins, as long as that person owes them.


@Oretes thank you for your comment. Are you in favor of more of a proportional system?

Why do we need the metric system? Get over it. And while ditching the Trump Disease may not fix EVERYTHING, it will damned sure be an immediate improvement. Why is everyone trolling Pritch 61.

Democracy has been dead in the United States since at least 2000.

They have spent years dumbing down the electorate and even advancing voter suppression. The division in the electorate make it easier to control with lies and empty promises. But the more descriptive word is bought. The congress is so dependent on the big money for re-election they have been compromised. That is painfully obvious today. Our representatives and senators don’t represent us any they are employees of the most wealthy. Sad for peons like me.

Everyone here really has similar ideas about what can be done - and they all hold weight. Personally, I think a lot has changed in politics since so much "secret" money has been dumped into the system. I remember campaigning for JFK with my dad and was amazed at the support Kennedy was getting from very different factions of society - why? Because he was all about progress, real progress and money had nothing to do with that. That is a part of our democracy that has faded, perhaps due to fear, poverty, ignorance, your guess is as good as mine - what I do know is that until (as mentioned by many of you) money and corporations and billionaires are removed from the equation a decent candidate has very little chance of the type of public exposure they would need to be competitive in their campaigns. No big money, no big money influence. Another valid point is religion - separation of church and state keeps the social playing field honest and fair - you cannot fit such a diverse citizenry into any specific religion and have social harmony and order. I am not convinced that being a liberal or a conservative in and of itself causes the chaos but I do believe the regulations, protections, laws and political norms currently in place must be changed. Term limits on every office in government, people who don't worry about job security do not worry about anything else - and yes, officials in government should be subject to the same social and financial advantages as the average citizen. The one thing I feel sincerely cannot happen is that we all become so depressed and removed from the political process that we fail to do ourselves the favor of supporting, making and being responsible for good government. The only good thing that has come out of the Trump debacle is the glaring need for citizen watchdogging and participation - we, can and will, turn this around.

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