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View Diary: Why do we have a 435-member House? (104 comments)

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  •  it is time for more wide ranging (4+ / 0-)

    ideas about how to arrange a representative government given todays population and technologies.

    First, there is no need for a physical assembly of representatives.

    In fact, there are considerable arguments against it on grounds of security, equitabiltiy of access from all parts of the nation, ability of representatives to remain close to those they represent, and interfering with the ability of special interest groups to interact in person with representatives.

    Second, there is no reason to stick with the ratio of (R)epresenatives per (r)epresented citizen laid forth in the constitution, as it was clearly limited by practical considerations that no longer hold.

    Finally, it is clear that in order to maintain a "human sized" assembly, which actually functions, it should remain close in size to Dunbar's Number, 150, give or take.

    So, one way to maintain a representative form of government would involve a multi layer structure in which each layer is   selected from the layer below.

    With a population of 300 million, the number of 30000 citizen blocks it 3E8/3E4 = 10000.

    This suggests a straightforward two tier system in which 30,000 citizens select 10000 local representatives who vote in a second tier election to select 100-200 national representatives from among their ranks.

    Alternatively, there could be many more levels, with smaller sizes.  

    The smallest possible size is, of course, 1.  In this extreme case, half the electorate asks  the other half to represent them.  Personally.  These first level representatives then divide in half again, forming a 2nd level group of representatives of about 1/4 the electorate.  This continues until an appropriate number for working as a body is achieved, 100-200 people.

    This would require only about 20 steps to get to a body of less than 300.   In addition, each voter would have a short list of actual people who were their direct representatives, from the first person they gave their representation to, to the last.  Each level, as it ascends, would be given broader responsibilities, but would of course rely on a single voter (and all those that voter represents) for their position.

    This is an extreme example, but likely something in between a single step and 20 would be practical and an improvement on the current situation.

    Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy -- Abraham J. Heschel

    by jotter on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 02:04:42 PM PDT

    •  But isn't the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jotter

      "physically meeting together" part in the Constitution?

      Interesting concept using Dunbar's Number.

      Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

      by a gilas girl on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 04:30:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  the words used (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a gilas girl

        are "assemble" and "place"

        I would submit that as time passes the idea of virtual assembly will become more and more accepted.  And on line "places"?  We have lots of those, don't we?

        But I would also expect that the top most layers would in fact meet "in meat space" as navajo so elegantly puts it.  Maybe not for as long as they do now.  It is only required that they meet once a year!

        In any event, it is long past time for band aid approaches.

        Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy -- Abraham J. Heschel

        by jotter on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:51:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, all this was in my diary of 5 years ago (0+ / 0-)

      Distributed Government

      You only need three levels of hierarchy when you have legislatures of size 100. The math it excerpted below.

      It is a historical fact that the British administered India with very few men, organized into a very flat hierarchy of no more than three levels. Neuroscience so far can only roughly trace the wiring diagram of the brain, but it also tells us that cells inside any given cortical region are organized into a flat hierarchy, and that there is massive communication between brain regions via white matter.

      Since the vision system is the most studied, it will be used as an example. Basically, the brain areas for vision form a feedforward hierarchy. The lower parts of the hierarchy do the simple analysis - this is a line, that is a circle. The next level up creates objects, and separates figure from ground - it produces what the Gestalt psychologists understood seventy years ago. Higher than that, and you get object tracking. At each level, the spatial resolution goes down and the level of abstraction goes up.

      What is newly understood is that this is not just a feedforward hierarchy. It is also a feedback hierarchy. For example, have you ever looked at a trick picture or an optical illusion? You can focus your attention and force your brain to see the image in a completely different way. Basically, the higher levels are laying down a template and telling the lower levels: connect these lines, ignore that feature, this goes in front of that. When all the levels are in equilibrium, we have a stable picture of the world. This is the science that drives the model proposed below.

      A.1 Sizing the hierarchy

      Let's examine the current "levels" of governmental information processing. If we sum up the number of Representatives, Senators, and Cabinet Officers, we have: 435 + 100 + 15 = 550. They are divided into levels as follows:

      ........435/550 = 79.0% are Representatives (Level 0 for my purposes)

      ........100/550 = 18.2% are Senators (Level 1)

      ..........15/550 =   2.7% are Cabinet Officers (Level 2)

      This is roughly a "power of four" pyramid, a data structure quite common in image processing, and other computer disciplines.

      Suppose I have 10 cabinet deparments and two layers of four-fold pyramidal legislatures under each department. If each legislature has 100 members, then the total number of legislatures is: 160 + 40 + 10 = 210 legislatures; and the total number of legislators is: 210 x 100 = 21,000.  The distribution of the levels of this rationally designed pyramid are:

      ........16,000/21,000 = 76% sub-committe staff (Level 0)

      ..........4,000/21,000 = 19% committee staff (Level 1)

      ..........1,000/21,000 = 4.76% cabinet level staff (Level 2)

      Notice that 21,000 is roughly the current number of Congressional staff, and that the current and proposed staff levels are within a few percentage points of each other, across the board!

      Notice that the 40 Level 1 legislatures corresponds roughly to the 20 + 17 = 37 current committees of the House and Senate. But also note that the House and Senate committees are largely duplicate in function .

      Notice that the 160 Level 0 legislatures corresponds roughly to the 96 + 71 = 167 sub-committees of the House and Senate, again with massive duplication.

      The number of 21,000 total elected officials needs to be explained. In the essay, we estimated

      ........ ~210 M eligible voters / 30,000 voters per representative  =  ~7,000 representatives

      So, the numbers here give each voter one vote in each of THREE specialized legislatures. That is, there are 100 open seats in each legislature. Each voter gets to cast each vote for one particular candidate in one of his three chosen specialties. Because of the 'seniority' system described in the essay, there are 30,000 votes cast for each of 100 seats, or 3 million votes cast per legislature. We have 210 legislatures, so 630 million votes are cast. This is 3 x 210 million eligible voters. The numbers add up correctly.

      Whereas each citizen gets to vote only in a few specialized legislatures, he does get to cast a vote for more cabinet members than legislators. For example, if he gets to cast three legislative votes, he might get to cast five cabinet member votes. Once again, including cabinet members in the vote is another dis-intermediation - another victory for open government. Today, a lot of Cabinet Secretaries are nothing but the incompetent and venal political or ideological cronies of the elected President.

      •  Some of this (0+ / 0-)

        Not all of it!

        Your solutions are flawed, I think, by calling for subject specific legislatures.

        The problem is one of proper categorization - always challenging and always evolving.  The legislatures of today will be inappropriate in X years where X is inkown.  So you need or only a mechanism for deciding in legislative specialties, but in addition a mechanism for updating them periodically.  That's a much more difficult task then counting the population.

        I call for direct representation, person to person, with multiple levels.

        Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy -- Abraham J. Heschel

        by jotter on Thu Apr 25, 2013 at 08:20:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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