Back then, Americans didn't have proper representation in the King's government. Today, it's the same thing ... as Americans, we don't have proper representation in Washington.
In the current U.S. House of Representatives, each member "represents" around 674,000 (FY2005) constituents. Now, this may surprise you ... but this puts United States citizens among the least represented people in government, anywhere on the globe!
As Jeff Jacoby noted in The Boston Globe:
Divide Iraq's 25 million people by the number of members in the new parliament (275), and the result is one legislator for every 91,000 people. That will make Iraq's government almost exactly as representative as Great Britain's -- each member of the House of Commons also represents, on average, about 91,000 citizens. Other democracies are comparable. The ratio for Italy's Chamber of Deputies is 1 to 92,000. For the French National Assembly, 1 to 104,000. For Canada's House of Commons, 1 to 105,000. For Germany's Bundestag, 1 to 136,000.
A Brief History Lesson:
After the ratification of our Constitution, the number of representatives in the House increased about every 10 years, all the way through the 1910 consensus, which established the number of representatives we have currently - 435.
After the 1920 consensus, Congress failed to reapportion the House (in violation of the Constitution), and then decided they wanted an automatic (rather than mathematical method) to reapportionment. So they passed "The Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929," and locked the number in, at 435.
That's a good question! Missouri Representative Ralph Lozier asked the same thing during the debates leading up to the passage of this act.
The bill seeks to prescribe a national policy under which the membership of the House shall never exceed 435 unless Congress, by affirmative action, overturns the formula and abandons the policy enunciated by this bill. I am unalterably opposed to limiting the membership of the House to the arbitrary number of 435. Why 435? Why not 400? Why not 300? Why not 250, 450, 535, or 600? Why is this number 435 sacred? What merit is there in having a membership of 435 that we would not have if the membership were 335 or 535? There is no sanctity in the number 435 ... There is absolutely no reason, philosophy, or common sense in arbitrarily fixing the membership of the House at 435 or at any other number.
In a free society, where legitimate governments "[derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed," it is of absolute importance that the citizens of the United States receive just representation in Washington.
But ... more politicians? Doesn't that mean bigger government?
Nope. In fact, I believe a greater number of representatives would most likely lead to smaller government, but first, let's take a look at the problems that exist due to the current "Super-sized Congressional Districts":
- Citizens have become estranged from the federal government and, feeling disaffected, are failing to vote at alarmingly high rates. Low voter turnout creates a political vacuum that is frequently filled by mobilized fringe interest groups (ACORN for example).
- The House of Representatives has devolved into a virtual oligarchy. It is also worth noting that the United States has the second largest House districts in the world (India has the largest).
- The federal House of Representatives is in egregious violation of the one person one vote principle due to the range in size of congressional districts across the country.
- The average continuous tenure of all Representatives serving in the 108th Congress (2003 - 2005) was 10.2 years. Of all the Representatives in the 108th Congress who sought reelection to the 109th, over 97% won. Once elected, Representatives become virtually undefeatable even if their performance in office has been mediocre, incompetent, or worse.
- The candidate who appears to be the most agreeable to the dominant constituency groups almost always beat the candidates who take a principled stand. This is why Democratic vs. Republican has become almost indistinguishable.
- In super-sized districts, too much time and effort gets placed on getting re-elected every two years. It takes a lot more time and money to campaign in a district of 674,000, than it would if the number was 100,000 (for example).
- The size of the Electoral College is based on the number of members in the House. Mathematically speaking, the smaller the Electoral College, the less likely it is to reflect the popular vote.
- Super-sized districts create voter disenfranchisement. The federal House of Representatives is in egregious violation of the one person one vote principle due to the range in size of congressional districts across the country. As it stands today, some Americans get more representation than others. See chart below.
Benefits to increasing the size of our House of Representatives:
- A greater amount of bodies in the House decreases the likelihood of political collusion, as well as, reducing the passage of legislation based on groupthink.
- Diversity! The many views and values of "we the people," are more likely to find a voice in the House. With only 435 representatives, "we the people" have been homogenized and herded into groups by politicians.
- With each candidate needing to win fewer votes, the House would become "the people's House" again.
- The purpose of the House is not only to represent the citizenry, but also to protect the citizens from the government.
- Instead of just a face on TV and a name, it becomes more likely that you will know (or have met) your representative.
- A smaller constituency promotes political intimacy between people and their representative, thus requiring candidates for office to be more principled. After all, it's much more likely they'll be held accountable by their constituents!
- The closer relationship also reduces the likelihood of outside special interest groups sticking their nose in your community.
- Elections would return to personal campaigning and local affiliation, instead of expensive mass-media advertising.
- No longer would states have to lose seats in Congress even as their population grows.
There's a lot more to discuss in terms of this idea, but I wanted to get the conversation started. I'll touch upon it further and dig into more detail in the near future.
So for now ... think about it. And remember the first paragraph of our Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
P.S. - Make sure to visit Thirty-Thousand.org!