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Seven Recommendations: A Government More Responsive To Its Citizens

This is not a political blog.  That said, almost all writing on economics and business embeds a political point of view.  I recognize that my view is relatively libertarian with respect to economics/business, but conservative with respect to ethical issues.  There are a few things that I think would get wide agreement from many parties, aside from those entrenched in DC.  That is what tonight’s post is about.  I think that I will not post like this often.

1)  End gerrymandering — all congressional and state districts should follow the following rule: The ratio of the square of the circumference to the area of a district should not exceed 30. This would make representatives less partisan than is common today, because they would have to be elected by groups closer to a random sample of the people in a given area.  Exceptions would be granted for non-negotiable boundaries, like state and national boundaries.

2)  Make them read the bills publicly.  We have a health bill that is 1990 pages long.  Make them read it, and make the legislators listen.  Whip those that fall asleep.  Further, let the bills fully express the changes made in a plain english manner.  Amendments to existing laws must be written out in entire, rather than referencing a code, and saying that it has been deleted, amended, etc.

3)  Limit the length of bills.  The Law of God through Moses was far more comprehensive, and is far shorter than even most narrowly focused bills.

4)  Flesch-test all bills.  Make them simple enough to be understood by ninth-graders.  Hey, they force this on insurance companies!  Do you suppose that laws which should have universal application should be different?

5)  Publish an abstract of all major laws that affect citizens once every five years.  Give a copy to every adult citizen.  Let this be done in every state as well.

6)  Re-emphasize the ninth and tenth amendments to the Constitution.  Those amendments are supposed to maximize liberty for states and individuals.

7) Amend the Constitution to make Federal and State laws superior to treaties.  I know what mischief this would do, but I would rather be ruled by my local peers than by foreigners who have no understanding of what our American system is like.

Would that we would do this.  Our government is less and less understandable to the average citizen.  If we want our government to exist for a long time, we need to put into place reforms that will cause the government to be more responsive to its citizens.

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5 Responses to Seven Recommendations: A Government More Responsive To Its Citizens

  1. IF says:

    I was with you for the first 6 points. The last one seems either academic or paranoid. As a sovereign entity the US always has a choice to follow its treaties or to break them. (Even Zimbabwe is able to do that.) And as long as it remains a military super power, who is going to force it to adhere to its prior commitments? So, a lot of noise about nothing?

  2. IF says:

    In other words, the foreign person has no legal reason to be impressed by the US constitution – only US persons are bound by it (No treason, Sir). By using the constitution to prescribe a constraint you are actually binding your local peers, not the foreigners who have no understanding of what your American system is like. Clever!

  3. Benedict says:

    Bravo, David.

    And to IF: There is a significant movement afoot, championed by Harold Koh, Obama’s choice to be legal adviser to the State Department, to subject the United States for the first time in its history to the jurisdiction of a variety of transnational institutions, such as the International Criminal Court. It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee the mischief an entity with the makeup of the United Nations (that is, with nations like Syria, Libya, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, etc. having equal standing with the US, Great Britain, etc.) and with the power to begin criminal proceedings against American elected officials and military leaders could cause. Tragically, Koh seems to have sympathizers in at least 2 current members of the Supreme Court (Ginsberg and Breyer) and almost certainly in Sotomayor.

    There are any number of other issues where transnational entities would love to set (or limit) US policy. David’s concern is therefore neither academic nor paranoid, but practical and enlightened.

  4. tradahmike says:


    Your suggestions do not factor in the culture of bribery and corruption that is endemic in Washington DC and our state and local governments as well.

    The only interest our “leadership” has in the Constitution is to use it as a prop, waving it in the face of the citizenry when it suits their purposes, while they cut their backroom deals to increase their political influence and enrich themselves.

    This corruption has overtaken both political parties in equal measure.

  5. Jeff says:

    David — These are all things that really sound great to people who have absolutely no experience in policy formation. It is amazing how easy it seems.

    Let’s try this. Next time your firm has a meeting, why don’t you all read every page of the research reports that go out with corporate approval? Start whipping everyone who did not do the homework, beginning with the CEO.

    Do you have an employment contract? Try writing it in one paragraph.

    Reading of the details is delegated in all organizations, but it is important that the details are there. The notion that legislators can or should read every bill, or that all should be read on the floor, is completely unrealistic.

    Just a thought


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