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Responsive Government

By February 4, 2011

Rex Nutting argued in an article for Marketwatch.com that we should abolish the United States Senate because it is aristocratic and blocks the democratic process. After reading the article, I think he believes that the Senate is responsible for gridlock in government.

The Senate exists as a check on the will of the majority. It is a great concept and was an accommodation to those founding fathers who believed that equal representation was a better form of government that proportional representation. Mr. Nutting has correctly identified a major problem in the United States; our government has become very elite. The problem is not the Senate. It was always intended to be an elite legislative body. I submit that the actual problem in Washington is the fixed size of the House of Representatives.

The founding fathers intended the House of Representatives (the People's House) to grow in proportion to the growth of the U.S. population. In 1791, a Member of Congress represented about 50,000 people. Today, Members of Congress represent over 700,000 people. If we kept that same proportion, the House of Representatives should have 6300 members.

In 1929, Congress decided to fix the size of the House at 435 members. What has happened over time is that our Members of Congress represent so many people that they only respond to those who they know, who support them, or are large interests in their districts. The diverse views of the 300+ million people who live in the United States are completely shut out. The House has simply become a larger Senate. A body made up of 435 largely millionaires, representing 700,000 people each. We do not need to abolish the Senate, we need to increase the size of the House. I do not know what the right number is, but 435 is too small and is the reason why "special interests" and we lobbyists wield such influence. What do you think?

Interesting reading: Thirty-thousand.org; Constituency Size and the Growth of Public Expenditures; We Need a Bigger House.

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