Washington isn’t broken. It’s thriving. The real problem is that our political system benefits the major political parties and their industry allies—not the people it was designed to serve. That’s according to “Why Competition in the Politics Industry Is Failing America,” a recent report out of the School’s US Competitiveness Project from business leader Katherine Gehl and University Professor Michael Porter. Gehl and Porter use the lens of industry competition to analyze the US political system and propose a strategy for reform and innovation.

“The politics industry is different from virtually all other industries in the economy because the participants themselves control the rules of competition,” write Gehl and Porter. “There is no truly independent regulation of politics that protects the public interest.” The current two-party structure is a textbook duopoly, they add, surrounded by a “political industrial complex” of special interests, donors, and lobbyists, resulting in competition that fails to deliver what citizens should expect: practical and effective policies that address the nation’s problems; action on those policies; leadership that unites and inspires; and respect for the Constitution and rights of all citizens.

While this probably sounds familiar—and depressing— Gehl and Porter emphasize that it is entirely fixable. Their strategy for reforming the system encompasses a variety of actions to restructure the election process, from moving to a single primary ballot for all candidates to instituting nonpartisan redistricting. They also propose restructuring the governing process by aligning legislative and governance rules with the public interest; shifting the incentives for politicians to respond to constituents rather than donors; and opening up competition as early as the 2018 election cycle to centrist, solutions-oriented independent candidates, among other recommendations.

“We citizens bear the ultimate responsibility for knowing what is good for our society and insisting on change,” the authors conclude. “We have the power to take it back, and we must.”


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