by Jon Rodriguez
The concept of inefficiency is nothing new to the American government –or the American people. Congress’s track record speaks volumes to that point. Why, then, is congress, despite its inefficiency, so necessary? …Is it necessary?
To explore this idea, one must take off the traditional/collectivist/nationalist hat and replace it with the hat of an unbiased individual interested only in the truth. In allowing yourself to wear a new hat you may find that it suits you much better than the old one.
I will focus primarily on the ways in which members of congress are voted in to office since that is where the power of the individual (who doesn’t hold a political office) is strongest (through voting). In America, every state except for Nebraska and Maine employ a winner-take-all system. This means that a candidate needs only a plurality of votes in order to win. It is for this reason, and the electoral college, that a candidate can become president despite losing the popular vote.
There are obvious problems with this system as portrayed in this Pre-Windows 98 info-graphic:
Though this may seem contradictory according to my last post about Political Monopolies, the winner take all system creates an objectively less democratic political atmosphere through the misrepresentation of the majority through the minority’s vote by a plurality. What I mean by the misrepresentation of the majority is that, in most elections, the majority of voters eligible to vote in said election don’t. The plurality that is responsible for electing a candidate into office, then, is not representative of even the majority of eligible voters, much less the majority of the governed. The contradiction becomes a paradox when you understand that the dilemma is not between two equally inefficient options: Winner-take-all and Proportional Representation.
The European response to winner-take-all is proportional representation which is self-explanatory: Congressional seats are divided according to the proportion of voters they are to numerically represent. This, too, has its own shortfalls. Some critics say that, as opposed to our current system of polarized parties, proportional representation would gridlock politics in semantics (too late) and fragment parties into, you guessed it, factions (too late, again).
But all in the name of increased representation/democracy, right?
The truth is that the presence of factions lead to a more accurate representation of the electorate, but only by magnifying the political differences between citizens who are supposed to share a national identity. The absence of factions in Congress, however, leads to a false sense of compulsion to vote for on of two parties but a more stable and homogenized public atmosphere. Pick your poison.
The truly discerning reader will scroll to the top and find that one of my initial questions is whether congress is necessary to begin with. When this country was founded, its framers sought to fix a system they considered broken. There aren’t many who will argue that Congress is a well-oiled legislation creation machine, or that it operates remotely well. I doubt the founders would expect a nation of 300 million to remain complacent with such blatant inefficiency. To revolutionize the existing system or create an entirely new one would be a historically accurate continuation of our founders’ radical legacy. To completely reject the notion of government’s limiting constraints of both the individual and the collective, however, may be the most accurate continuation.
What I’m reading about today: The Senate’s Interpretation of The Constitution