Thursday, November 4, 2010

What The Country Needs is 5,500 More Members of Congress.

Mr. Torvik asks what I think increasing the number of congressional districts from 435 to 6000. I think that is an excellent idea in the sense that more representatives means more direct democracy. That said, I don't think an increase in the number of representatives would have the affect Mr. Magliocca discusses in his post. He writes that increasing the size of the House of Representatives by doubling it would:

This would accomplish the goals of both campaign finance reformers and libertarians. First, the cost of each campaign would go down because House districts would be smaller. Second, special interest groups would find it much more expensive to wield clout within a legislature. They would have to donate twice as much, in effect, even though the demand for money from candidates would be lower. Third, the influence of any single member would be reduced in a larger legislature, due to the higher transaction costs for public action, and would thus make it harder for a member to make a credible promise of a benefit to a donor.
The problem is that his theory is I don't have any idea why it would cost twice as much to wield clout with Congress. If the cost of the elections goes down, the money the needed to fund the election goes down and the amount needed to "wield clout" with a particular candidate goes down. One might respond that the number of congresspeople is increasing so the amount a special interest needs to spend will increase. However, as the supply of congresspeople goes up, one assumes that the price for a congressperson will go down because the demand for any particular congressperson goes down. One might just as easily say that there will be no change in the price for the special interest. As for his suggestion that it would be harder for a member to make a credible promise to the donor, I am under the impression that often the donor is only seeking a vote. The congressperson would still be able to make that promise.

Finally, as for's suggestion that we create four new federal cities to house the additional 5,500 members of congress, I don't think much of that idea. It seems to me that the representatives should just adopt the suggestion former Wisconsin governor Lee Dreyfus made over 30 years ago: they should legislate from their home district. With modern technology, there isn't a need to force all members of congress to one, or four, cities.

1 comment:

  1. To be fair to thirty, they also tout tele-commuting as an answer to the problem of a giant legislature.


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