Thursday, January 13, 2005

Bigger House = Better Democracy?

Linked in the title above is an interesting article from the Boston Globe, which I first encountered in this post from Daily Kos. Most democratically elected legislative bodies (including the one to be elected in Iraq under our auspices) have a ratio of about 100,000 citizens to every representative. But in the US, the ratio is more like 675,000/1. Jeff Jacoby proposes (following the wisdom of our founding fathers) making the House of Representatives larger, and therefore more representative. The benefits of smaller constituencies include closer connection between citizens and representatives; elections more local and thus easier for less-funded candidates to compete in; mix of representatives more like social mix of America. A possible downside that Jacoby doesn't mention is that smaller districts might be easier to gerrymander, but it could work the other way too. Sounds like great idea to me, though I won't hold my breath. More discussion of the idea, and some counter proposals, can be found in the Daily Kos post.

1 comment:

thirdpartydreamer said...

I've read that in imperial China (skilled historian that I am, I can't remember which dynasty) the ratio of government officials to population at large was about 1 to 300,000. That includes even the lowest-level officials. So most ordinary people had no contact at all with even nth-tier representatives of the central government. Hence the old saying, "Heaven is high and the emperor is far away."

The implications are different, of course, for an imperial bureaucracy and a representative democracy. For citizens of a democracy, more precise representation in the federal government might be a good thing; for subjects of an empire, adding officials to better extract taxes and corvee labor could only be a bad thing.