by Karl Kurtz
In our work on the Trust for Representative Democracy we are always looking for creative ways to make the point that representative democracy works, not without flaws but better than any conceivable alternative. One of the ideas that we have toyed with is to try to show what life would be like without legislatures, but we haven't quite come up with the way to do it.
In the process of searching for old documentaries on government, my colleague Gene Rose found a 1947 Coronet Instructional film, "The Powers of Congress." This 10 minute video features a character, Charles Bentley, who complains bitterly about the burdens that the Congress has placed on him and suggests that it should be abolished. He then falls asleep and has a dream about all the dreadful things that would happen if there were no Congress (or at least no federal government). The dream is cleverly produced, complete with marvelous bubbles floating across the screen in a manner that seems way before its time. When Bentley awakens from the dream, he has a new appreciation for the work of Congress and composes a speech for his service club on the subject.
This last third of the video in praise of Congress turns pedantic in its approach, but it doesn't wipe out the campiness and fun of the first two-thirds. You'll have fun watching it.