The Pledges We Need

Photograph of the US Senate Chamber circa 1920

“No new taxes.”  The pledge has had a baleful effect on government, reducing Congress’s ability to problem-solve and foreclosing broad-ranging discussion of how best to increase the revenues that an established government needs.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the parties could be persuaded to take other sorts of pledges?  Such as:

We pledge to refrain from negative advertising.
We pledge to refrain from casting aspersions on our opponents or their families.
We pledge to foreswear super-PAC money.
We pledge to attend the Senate when it’s in session and to debate openly and in person with members of the other party. . . .

The possibilities are endless, don’t you agree?

2 responses

  1. I have a hard time agreeing with you on this one. Once a “pledge” is taken, it is limiting in nature. I believe that it then paints one into a corner to just have a “black and white ” mentality. In my view this can never work; there are always exceptions.

    • Being committed to a principle that is positive and constructive can be limiting in a good way. The Hippocratic oath (“do no harm”) is one example. Yes, it limits action (a doctor may not give in to the urge to poison a chronically irritating patient, for example), but this gives us confidence in doctors and enables doctors as a group to enjoy high prestige. Practically, it helps maximize the good they do in society.

      Politicians are a self-regulating group who have let the quality of their profession deteriorate to the point where their collective prestige is declining. Many of the problems that are plaguing the government are rooted in lack of discipline and lack of attention to their common culture. Parties could take steps to restore a better tone and these would be wildly popular with the people. There would still be plenty of entertainment value in politics. And just as much conflict.