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Some decades ago the biologist Richard Dawkins coined the word “meme” to describe bits of cultural material—nostrums, fashions, behaviours—that acquire broad currency and then get passed along like genes. Looking at political commentary in the last few years, you can see that a powerful meme has taken hold: American government is broken. Writing in the New York Times in 2010, Paul Krugman described a nation “paralysed by procedure” and “re-enacting the dissolution of 18th-century Poland.” In February, speaking at a debate sponsored by National Public Radio, Arianna Huffington observed, “Wherever you look, you see that we can only produce suboptimal…

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