Site Meter
Fritz Feds

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Government is Too Small!

The size of the government is too small. Well, what I really mean to say is that it seems obvious to me that House of Representatives ought to be enlarged. After all, it is supposed to be the chamber of Congress most directly aligned to the will of the people. Why, then, fix the size of the People's House at 435, where it has been since 1911 (save temporary exceptions upon the admission of Hawaii and Alaska to the Union).

A brief examination suggests that this should be a major issue for Federalists. The Framers intended that Congressmen represent no fewer than 30,000 people, but presently that number is approximately 20 times bigger. Most Senators probably represented less people then than Congressmen do now. I do not recall having read anything either suggesting that the House would not continue to grow as with the nation.

But why isn't it? Is it because it would destroy the goal the Progressives had in mind when they enacted the limitation on growth of the House in 1910? They were concerned that with dramatic enlargement of the immigrant population, the quality of the House might be diminished with the dilution of the native vote. Today, maybe some are concerned that an increase in the size of the House would only increase minority representation in the Congress. To me, that seems like a good solution for republican government especially considering the suggested alternatives of proportionate representation and the like.

Is it because a larger house would be inoperable or cumbersome? Bear in mind, if you say yes, that American government was not designed with efficiency as its primary goal, but rather parliamentary systems lay claim to that quality. Instead, ours was meant to be mired, at least to some degree, in conflict, with ambition countering ambition, as Madison said, even in the houses of the Congress. Additionally, anyone who has ever turned on C-SPAN will notice that the concern is not room on the floor of the House floor. House work is done, above all, in committee and there is no intrinsic reason a larger body would inhibit that.

I would be glad to expand on my reasons why I think this is a good idea as a Federalist, and why I think it should garner enthusiastic support from liberals and conservatives alike. But, for now I'll wait to see what interest, if any, my inaugural blogging draws.


2 comments

Comments:
This makes sense to me. But we need a commitment that the Congressional salaries will be matched with corresponding reductions in the payrolls at huge bureaucracies like the Department of Education.
 
In general, I agree that the budgets of department hardly justifiable in a federal system need to be cut, if not eliminated altogether. But increasing the number of congressmen, somewhat paradoxically, could likely pay for itself. Currently, Representatives are allotted funds to pay for staffs of at least a dozen individuals each. With a bigger house, congressmen would represent smaller constituencies, thus enabling them to get by with smaller staffs as well. I would have to gather some numbers of average staff salary and the like, but it certainly seems feasible to me that a proposal to increase the size of the House could (and should) include provisions to simultaneously pare staff numbers, if not even reduce the salaries paid to House Members themselves. The question of paying for this through reduction of other government costs does not even arise, because presumably the plan would be designed to pay for itself.
 
Post a Comment

Home