What Would Happen If We Scrapped Congress? A 1940s Film Explains

The fantasy of abolishing Congress turns into a nightmare in this 1947 clip from Coronet Instructional Films. Sick of paying income taxes, cranky Charles Bentley doesn't want to vote in the election. "What's Congress ever given me except a lot of trouble!" he tells a friend. "I think we'd all be better off if there wasn't any Congress!" The film, courtesy of the Prelinger Archive, dissolves into a hallucination of a post-Congress world. No postal system, no national currency, no military, and no judicial system! The narrator's ghoulish voice cackles ominously. Bentely's in trouble now! 

This is just an excerpt from the full film (available here) which includes an entire speech that Bentley composes after his revelation to give to the members of his club, outlining the many valuable contributions of the federal government. Food safety, labor laws, highways, national parks, and more! "After all, we can't be too careful who we send to Washington to exercise the vast powers of Congress!" 

For more films from the Prelinger Archive, visit http://archive.org/details/prelinger.

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.

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