Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Improving Democracy

I have been clear in my complaints about the failings of democracy and offered up some possible solutions. Economist Steve Landsburg has some great ideas of his own:
Divide senatorial constituencies according to the alphabet, so that instead of a senator from Alaska and a senator from Wisconsin, we’ll have a senator for everyone whose last name begins with AA through AE. The point being that it’s easy to think up earmarks and pork barrel projects that will benefit the citizens of Alaska at everyone else’s expense, but not so easy to think up pork barrel projects that will benefit everyone whose last name happens to begin with Q.

Give each voter two votes to cast in every senatorial election. You get one vote to cast in your own state and one to cast in the state of your choice. Again, this forces senators to answer to broader and more diverse constituencies, diluting the power of localized special interests.

This one’s not in the book but should have been: Give each senator a personal budget so that once he;s voted for $X billion worth of spending, he’s not allowed to vote for any more spending until he gets re-elected. This pits his various sub-constituencies against each other, so that the New York Senator who lobbies for subsidies to New York City is sure to get a negative earful from upstate.


  1. Oh the things we could do if it weren't for the Constitution.

  2. Good point Justin. I guess I'm not really suggesting we do this, but it helps us understand what the real problems are. Then again, there are always Constitutional amendments.

  3. Though these ideas could help some parts of democracy, and I briefly thought, "huh, that could be cool," I realized that there would be other problems that would arise if we were to actually implement them. For 1 and 2, could you imagine what campaign season would be like if candidates had to advertise throughout the country to reach all their possible A-name voters? Yikes! And 3 is nice in theory, but there are some expensive but legitimate bill out there. I mean, if a Senator votes for a military expense that uses up his allotted amount, he can't pass anything to pay for roads. I like roads.

  4. I don't think I understand your problem with 1 and 2. You don't want to have to see that many political advertisements?

    As for 3, I assume the amount would be split up. So if all 100 Senators voted for a needed war, it wouldn't be that expensive. However, if it is less popular, it would cost more. Of course there could always be exceptions for extremely popular laws.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.