The Proposal To Increase The Size Of The House Of Representatives: An Unworkable Idea! :(

A political science professor at Northwestern University, in combination with one at New York University, recently promoted an idea in a NY Times op-ed on how to reform the US House of Representatives.

Their proposal was to increase the size of the House closer to the original intent of the Founding Fathers, who set up the original House to reflect 30,000 white males in each congressional district in 1789 and after. Of course, women and blacks and native Americans were not counted at the beginning for purposes of congressional representation.

Their point was that now a member of the House of Representatives represents approximately 700,000 people, and that the fixed total of 435 was only set after the 1910 census.

Meanwhile the population has tripled since 1910, so the argument is that a member of Congress cannot represent his or her constituents adequately, as there are too many people per congressional district.

Their proposal is to raise the number of members of the House of Representatives from 435 to 1500, so that each congressional district represent only 200,000 people, about the same as in 1910. This would, supposedly, make members of Congress closer to their constituents and make for greater levels of democracy.

The author must say that he totally disagrees with this proposal, considering it unworkable and chaotic!

As it is, the House of Representatives is too unwieldy with 435 members, and often what goes on in the House is nothing more than chaos, as it is hard to keep order and to move forward on legislation expeditiously.

To have 1500 members is an insane idea, and would not promote progress, but rather confusion and disarray. And the idea of third party movements having a say only promotes further chaos, anarchy, stalemate and gridlock.

A multiparty system would not work better than our two party system, and would be far less efficient.

And also, how about the offices and seating space required for 1500 members in the House Office Buildings and House chamber? And what about the costs of having that large a legislative body?

The comparison is made by the authors of this op-ed that Great Britain has 61 million people and 650 members of their Parliament, making it one for every 78,000 people, and that Canada has 33 million people and 308 members of their Parliament, making it one for every 109,000 people.

But these countries are a lot smaller in population, so they can have the luxury of having smaller numbers of people per representative.

But to have such a large number as 1,500 in a nation of 310 million people is simply too unwieldy and difficult to manage and to work efficiently.

If anything, the author would argue for a smaller House, closer to 301, where each member represents one million people, as a way to make for efficiency. but of course the Congress would have to vote to make themselves smaller, which is not about to happen! 🙂

And also remember that members of the largest populated states in the Union have their Senators represent many millions of people, and as long as they have adequate office space, budget, and staff, that can be accomplished, so the idea of a larger House of Representatives is just that–an idea that will see no fruition, but certainly is an interesting subject for discussion by academics! 🙂

4 comments on “The Proposal To Increase The Size Of The House Of Representatives: An Unworkable Idea! :(

  1. d.eris February 9, 2011 11:48 am

    There are numerous problems with your analysis of this issue. “the House of Representatives is too unwieldy with 435 members.” You supply no evidence for this assertion. The last house passed HUNDREDS of bills. How unwieldly can it be if it can pass so many bills in a truncated working year?

    “and often what goes on in the House is nothing more than chaos, as it is hard to keep order and to move forward on legislation expeditiously.” There is no evidence that this is related to the number of members. It could just be that these people, namely, Democrats and Republicans, cannot be trusted to keep order and move legislation. But as said above, the House passed hundreds of bills last session.

    “To have 1500 members is an insane idea, and would not promote progress, but rather confusion and disarray.”
    Again this is mere assertion. And you do not supply any evidence why confusion and disarray would be a bad thing. Do you really want it to be so easy for them to pass their next surveillance or police state measure, or start the next war etc.?

    “the idea of third party movements having a say only promotes further chaos, anarchy, stalemate and gridlock.” Again, you supply no evidence for this assertion, and provide no argument that stalemate and gridlock would not be better than them doing anything. You trust THESE people with the drafting of laws? Then you’re the one who’s insane.

    I could go on, but that should suffice, as the same criticism holds the whole way through. Mere assertion without any evidence. And you consider this an “academic” discussion?

  2. Dr. Tanger May 3, 2012 4:59 pm

    the author of this “article” needs to look up the principle-agent problem as it relates to representation. less reps would spell a disaster unless you are one of the few voters who also has huge amounts of money to donate to political campaigns.

  3. InOhio October 13, 2013 1:36 pm

    I feel that the author could be more knowledgeable regarding US history and government. The author claims that the Senate exists to represent large state interests; that is untrue. Each state gets 2 Senators. This benefits smaller states, not larger ones, with the House expanding to population size. This was the crux of the Connecticut Compromise.

    The hypothetical argument about not having a place to hold 1,500 people is equally amusing and overlooks some of the problems with maintaining status quo. DC currently has buildings capable of holding far more than 1,500 people in one room now. Members of Congress have large teams of unaccountable staffers who handle the day-to-day work. Instead of bringing the decision making process closer to the citizens, we have decided to create gigantic Congressional districts & bureaucracies to push the citizen further away from the legislative process in the name of efficiency, even when its apparent that such efficiency does not exist in the Federal government now. This efficiency is apparent in the inability of the Federal government to accomplish much of anything and elected Representatives beholden more towards their outside funding interests than the desires of the American public, which do not easily fall upon either party line.

    Even without the physical space, governance could (and perhaps should) start taking place remotely. There is no logical reason why a Representative could not read & discuss bills, attend committee meetings, and vote on legislation without having to leave their own district. Not only would this reduce the travel expenses associated with sending every member to DC, but it would allow the Representative to remain more connected to his or her constituency.

    Smaller districts would also enable constituents to run campaigns to unseat the incumbent Representative. Campaigns would become more localized and center on retail issues for local voters.

    If the author was looking for the most efficient way of governance, then I believe that he would advocate for a monarchy as only one person would then be representative of the entire country. However, this country was founded on a belief that the government should be more responsive to the desires of its citizens and that voters get a say. We will often find that most of our government woes can be solved when we give voters more of a voice, not less of a voice, and smaller Congressional districts would empower voters to become more involved in the Federal government.

  4. Ronald October 13, 2013 9:58 pm

    Thanks for your comment, but I will have you know that I did NOT say the Senate represents large states, as indeed, it is more representative of small states, since Senators have the same voting power in small states as in large states. You misread what I said, and you need to know what you are reading, before accusing someone who has taught for decades that he does not know history and government. You have a right to your opinions, but not to misrepresenting what the author has said.

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