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.

Our Incredible, Microscopic World

Highlights from Nikon's Small World in Motion competition, featuring zebrafish embryos, killer T cells attacking cancer, and much more

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."

Video

What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.

Video

Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.

Video

How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Video

Just In