Why Accountability Matters in American Politics

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Why Accountability Matters in American Politics

The opinion-page article "Washington Talk in Bonn," July 5, reminds us that Americans pay a high price for the relatively high degree of accountability to which we hold our elected representatives (i.e., the apparent inability of those representatives to reach a consensus on important issues.) This inability has the potential for dire consequences in the international sphere, where the foreign policies of many nations are decided by a few persons - free from any electoral considerations.

We should remind ourselves, however, that the former Soviet Union failed to survive the United States in what was probably the most pervasive power struggle. The reason for this is clear: Soviet leaders, freed from the need to test their policies in what Justice Holmes called the "free marketplace of ideas," began to believe their own propaganda. Given human nature, there is little reason to doubt that American leaders would soon fall prey to this tendency if they were somehow made less accountable.

Corny as it sounds, we must have faith that conduct that may seem counterproductive to some observers of the American political system is in fact a search for the truth. …