In this episode, Roberts talks with political scientist Steven Teles about his recent National Affairs piece, Kludeocracy in America.

In the spirit of continuing our conversation, we’d love to hear from you on the questions below.

Check Your Knowledge:

1. What is “kludge,” and why does Teles say the United States is a kludgeocracy?

2. What does Teles mean when he says, “we have a durable bias against undoing stuff we are already doing?”

3. Roberts says that his main take-away from Teles’ article is that some elements of our constitutional system that he previously thought were features are actually bugs. What example does he cite to illustrate this epiphany? What other examples could you suggest?

Going Deeper:

4. Roberts and Teles want to draw a distinction between size and complexity, mostly agreeing that the latter is the bigger problem. When thinking about government intervention, why is this distinction important, and which do you believe poses the greater challenge to those who prefer smaller government?

5. Roberts suggests that another problem is the role the federal government plays in corrupting or running “private” enterprises. Teles responds by citing a need to create rules to help decide whether a particular endeavor should be handled at the federal or state level. What kinds of examples does he have in mind? To what extent do you think such rules could be effective, and why?

6. Roberts suggests that were politicians to feel shame about policies such as agricultural prices supports, change might be more likely. Perhaps, for example, were stories to appear in the New York Times, people might be more likely to seek political action. What do you think could elicit this sort of shame among the public, and to what extent do you believe shame can effectively incite political change?

7. Teles argues that our constitutional design was appropriate for a people with more modest expectations of government, but now that our government has “matured” the public’s expectations have shifted. What accounts for this shift in expectations? What potential exists for this to shift again and in the direction of a more modest government?

Extra Credit:

8. What is the role of ideas in the political process, according to Teles? Describe how you think Roberts would answer this same question, and how would it compare to Teles’s answer?