Monday, August 3, 2009

Participatory Democracy

I believe it is too difficult to get involved in politics in this country. Politicians are demonized, and rightly so, because the game is so cutthroat. There are 535 jobs in Congress. There were 219 million people in this country of voting age in 2004. That means there is one person in Congress for every 411,165 people of voting age. That is a large pool to draw from for one job. The competition drives candidates to spend outrageous amounts of money and make outrageous promises to get elected. They then must go to Congress and bring huge amounts of money to their district so they will be re-elected. Sometimes, they are not re-elected, but it turns out that is does not matter. The cast changes, but the script stays the same.

So how can this be changed? Political office is viewed as a publicly ridiculed pursuit that requires nearly life-long dedication because of the competition for jobs. I would like to change this country, but not at such a high personal cost. I have other goals in my life besides becoming a politician. What if there were ten times more seats in Congress? In fact, how many seats were there in Congress 200 something years ago, when the country was founded, and how many citizens were there in the country then? Well some quick research tells me there were 132 electoral votes in 1792, which is equivalent to the number of seats in Congress, and that the total population in the 1790 census was 3,797,231. That averages out to 28,767 citizens per Congressional office. 411,165 divided by 28,767 equals 14.3. How much more participatory would our democracy be if there were 7,646 seats in Congress?

Right now there are a very small number of elite politicians who are paid, legally and illegally, exorbinant amounts of money to direct our country. Expand that group so that it is no longer such an exclusive club, cut their benefits and maybe their (legal) pay, and limit the amount of time one person can serve. Dilute the power one individual can have. Stop politics from being a profession, and return it to being a public service.

I am not posting links to the data I used because I am not confident in its absolute accuracy. I welcome anyone to find reliable data and post it. Even better would be to show the average total population per Congressional seat from 1792 to 2004 (or 2008 if the data is available).

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