Thursday, September 8, 2011

FIXING CONGRESS

On September 24 and 25, I will be attending a conference at Harvard Law School, billed as ConConCon. It’s all about organizing people to work for a national convention to propose amendments to the U.S., Constitution.

I have been saying for a long time that people of all political views should support the idea of an amendatory convention as described in Article V. At this Harvard conference, it’s really going to happen.

There will be two keynote speeches. One from the left and one from the right. The liberal is Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. The conservative is Mark Meckler, the National Coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots.

Strange bedfellows to be sure.

I’m not sure exactly what those two fellows are likely to agree upon. But it would seem that they both think it’s time to organize an Article V convention. That’s because they both think there is something wrong with the government in Washington that can’t be fixed just by electing new people.

Lessig has a web site called “fixcongressfirst.” He is obviously of the opinion that money talks too loud in the nation’s capital. He’s unhappy about the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, and I suppose he would like to see an amendment that would reverse that decision or somehow address the problem of mendacious politicians selling their loyalty and their votes.

That’s an issue which would probably find support among Mr. Meckler’s people as well. The whole Tea Party movement was based on dissatisfaction with the Congress.

So the issue which a convention would have to address is this: what do you do about it?

Tough question.

The old saying is that all is fair in love and war. Add politics. I don’t know how you can legislate against political enthusiasm and effort. You can’t stop rich people from spending money to support their favorite candidates any more than you can stop poor folks from marching in the streets to support their candidates.

And really, who would be competent to do it? The government? The very same government that is being fought over at the ballot box? Not exactly an impartial arbiter.

Let’s face it, the money problem is a function of two things: the size of the constituencies and the size of the prize.

The Founders tried to require congressional districts of no more than 50,000 people. Today they comprise about 700,000. Hard to walk door to door. Television. Newspapers. Bulk mail. It all costs big bucks.

If we had districts of 50,000 people, the House of Representatives would need over 6,000 seats. Sounds unwieldy, but then you have to ask yourself whether 435 Congressmen and women can really represent over 300 million citizens.

A large part of the problem, of course, is the extent to which the government is involved in the economy. As long as Washington is a cornucopia, there will be competition among the greedy for the goodies.

Political contributions are usually made on a cost-benefit analysis. You give in order to get.

Maybe we need to think about a two tier system. Small districts in which the voters can elect representatives they know and trust, who in turn would send delegates to Washington when Congress is in session.

The delegates could do the committee work and the ceremonial duties, but the local representatives would vote on all actual legislation. With modern communications, they don’t need to be in the Capital Building to register their ayes and nays.

Something to think about.

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