The Neuroscience of Bad Government

What brain anatomy and physiology can teach us about optimizing our political systems

Anna Mercury


Photo by Gaspar Uhas on Unsplash

Americans do not trust the government. Polls from Pew and Gallup alike show our trust and satisfaction with the state are in the toilet. Our quality of life is in decline. Our belief in the fairness of our economy is slipping. Our view of the country is changing from that of a shining global empire to a deranged and irresponsible wasteland.

We may still nominally pledge our allegiance to our current system of government — that is to say, we’re not in open rebellion against it — but we’re not genuinely satisfied customers. We’re buying what this state sells only because it retains its monopoly on the legitimate use of force, but as its legitimacy wanes in our eyes, that monopoly might not hold much longer.

No sane American wants a civil war. We just want a government that works for us. We want the state to help, not hinder, the flourishing of our country. We expect a good government to add to the wellbeing of our society: to keep our lives stable, healthy, harmonious, balanced, generative, enjoyable and comfortable, as well as to support us in creating, innovating and evolving as the generations unfold.