In 2017, famed Harvard Economist Michael Porter weighed in on American’s political dysfunction with a report, co-authored with Katherine Gehl, called Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America.

The report concludes that the American political system no longer serves the public interest, but the private interests of gain-seeking organizations such as the political parties and the network of nonprofit groups in their orbit.

The report offers further critiques by suggesting that our system provides none of the core functions of a healthy political system such as practical solutions that expand citizen opportunity, action, broad-based buy-in by the citizenry over time, and a respect for the Constitution and Citizen rights.

Gehl and Porter are experts in industry structure. The report identifies how politics is structured keeping in mind that most of what constitutes our political system is accomplished through private political organizations.

The duopoly prioritizes money and voting constituencies, controls candidates, campaign talent, voter data, and idea suppliers, co-opts marketing and advertising channels, and erects “high and rising barriers” to new competition.

The report also outlines some perverse incentives such as toxic issues, and the fact that the parties have virtually no accountability.

The Data Behind Political Competition

The report identifies the following data related to a functional political system:

  • Public Trust in Federal Government
  • Congressional Gridlock
  • Declining Bipartisan Support for Landmark Legislation
  • Number of Laws Enacted by Congress
  • Proportion of Moderates in the Senate
  • Proportion of Moderates in the House
  • Declining Public Trust in Mass Media
  • Increasing Desire for A Third Major Party
  • Low Congressional Approval
  • Increasing Unfavorable Opinion of the Major Parties

The report outlines recommendations to improve the system that center on restoring competition to the political process. Specific recommendations include ranked choice voting and limiting the influence of money in politics.