It is very rare that a conservative libertarian will offer larger government as a solution to any problem, much less the solution to the problems inherent in our modern government. However, the distinction needs to be made that what is suggested is not greater government power, additional government programs, or extending the reach of government. No, the solution offered is to increase the actual size, the membership of the United States House of Representatives greatly.
The original framers intended the House to represent the people, to be for the people, to be of the people. At ratification, the House sat 65 Representatives, serving just under four million people. Each Representative served around 60,000 people. Today, the House seats 435 Representatives, who serve over three hundred million people. Each modern Representative serves just under 690,000 people. Today each Representative serves over 11 times as many people as the they did during the first Congress.
During the first half of our nation’s history, new seats were added to the House with the growth of our population and addition of new states to the Union. However, the Reapportionment Act of 1929 would set a ceiling of 435 total seats in the House. With each census, seats would be reappointed proportionally between the states and districts remapped, but despite our ever growing population the actual number of seats remained constant.
Why does the number of Representatives matter? Why is wrong with each Representative serving more and more people?
The number of Representatives matter because they are our Representatives, they serve us, they are the people’s House. How many Americans know who their representative is? How many Americans have met their Representative? How can Representatives hope to properly serve us if they have not even met the vast majority of us?
The benefits of a larger House, and more personal representation are numerous.
The greatest benefit is that each Representative will have far more incentive to serve the people, rather than their party or lobbyists.
With a larger House, there will be far greater chances for the election of independent and third party candidates with smaller and more personal campaigns. Even when the Representatives are members of the two major parties, the challenge will be far greater for the party Whips to control their respective parties if the representatives number in the thousands. There will be far greater room for each Representative to follow their own beliefs or their constituents rather than the party line.
Campaign contributions and war chests will be far less important in smaller elections, many of which will avoid metropolitan areas and their associated expensive television and radio markets completely. Campaigns will focus on the personal touch, speeches to small crowds and town hall meetings. Candidates from less-than-wealthy backgrounds will have much greater chances at winning elections without selling their souls to special interest groups.
A larger House will increase the work for lobbyists and decrease their influence. Since campaigns will require far less money, candidates will have far less need to turn to lobbyists and special interests for contributions. Today, lobbyists often need only “convince” a dozen or so Representatives to vote their way on a bill or legislation. If the Representatives were to number in the thousands, then even close votes would require lobbyists to “convince” dozens or even hundreds of Representatives, a far greater task and one far less likely to succeed.
Since Representatives will now be tied far less to their party and special interests, they will be free to actually serve the people, to vote in our best interests. A Representative tied less to their party and to special interests is a great plus for America.
Since each Representative will serve far less people, they will know or at least have met, far more of their constituents. The House will be far more personal, it will once again become the People’s House.
What is the actual number of Representatives that we should seat in the House? Isn’t the actual Capitol building restrictive? Is it practical to seat thousands of Representatives?
The first Congress saw each Representative serve around 60,000 people. That is as good an aim as any, we can increase the current membership ten fold, to 4350, and ad another odd amount to maintain the impossibility of a split vote. Let’s make that odd amount 9, and they would all go to the just under 600,000 people currently unrepresented in the District of Columbia. We can hit that second bird with our one stone while we are at it. 4359 Representatives is a very solid number to seat.
Each representative would serve around 70,000 Americans. After each Census, the number to seat would be readjusted to maintain that 70,000 for each Representative ratio as well as an odd number of total Representatives.
Obviously, the Capitol Building cannot regularly seat an additional four thousand or so Representatives, however the Constitution only requires one session of Congress per year.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall
be on the first Monday in December,begin at noon on the 3d day of January (Amendment XX) unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
With today’s advancing communication technologies, there is little need for Congress to actually be located in one building, or even one city, at the same time to conduct their business. There are a plethora of communication technologies that the House could take advantage of to cast their votes from afar.
The less time our Representatives spend in Washington and K Street the better. Representatives would be able to primarily work out of their home district, and live and work among the people they represent.
Even if we want to keep our Representatives in Washington, room in a building should not limit the government from better and more personal representation. Either an expansion to the Capitol Building or an entirely new construction would easily solve the practicalities.
Regardless of the multitude of other problems facing our government, less partisan and more personal representation in the House has little risk and the potential for great rewards. Clearly bigger government is part of the answer, it is time for the House of Representative to once more become The People’s House.