On Ben’s view on how to fix the Legislature
2011 Editorial note: over the years Ben eventually Abandoned his blog and the original post is gone, you can see a copy of Ben’s original article on the Wayback Machine on the Internet Archive here.
Ben posted on his blog today about a plan on how to “fix” the United States Legislative Branch by getting rid of the Senate. In his view, the Senate makes representation unfair because since each state gets two senators, in some states, like Alaska, the senator represents a lot fewer people than a senator from other states, like California. I must say I disagree with his assessment on the health of our checks and balances system, and here’s why.
Ok, according to Ben’s blog entry:
Quite simply, I think we need to get rid of the Senate. In the old days, of course, when state sovereignty was more important than national sovereignty, the Senate existed to ensure that no one state held greater legislative power than another due to greater population. The concept here is that The State is a macrocosm of The Individual Voter, and that since every voter has the same amount of power regardless of size, color or creed, so too should The State have the same amount of clout regardless of population.
This system ensures equal rights on a state level, but in my mind creates great inequality on an individual level. For example, a Senator from California represents, say, 5 million voters, while a Senator from Alaska represents less than 1 million. Each of these Senators’ votes is worth the same when deciding an issue of national significance. Ergo, every individual vote that gets Alaska’s Senator elected is worth 5 Senatorial election votes in California, which means that 1 voter in Alaska has 5 times the legislative power of an Californian voter.
He is apparently picking those figures out of mid air instead of doing the research directly. If he were to post the actual figures, the difference in weight of residents to a senator is even more staggering.
The estimated population of Alaska in 2003 was 648,818, while the estimated population of California in 2003 was 35,484,453. Since in the Senate EVERY state gets 2 votes, that means that each senator in Alaska represents less than 325 thousand people, while each senator in California represents over 17 million. A lot more then his 5 to 1, it’s actually that going by the Senate alone, a vote for a Senator is nearly 55 times more potent in Alaska then it is in California.
So why, if this is so, do I speak against Ben’s theory of a senate-deprived legislature? Because the point of the Senate is not to represent the American, but the state citizen. The point of the House of Representatives is to represent the American. And those 2 things really DO need to balance each other out.
“Aren’t we all American?” you say? Well yes, but we are also members of our own states, and each state has its own system of Values and its own culture. And if all we had was the House of Representatives, then the needs of those individual cultures would be smothered by the values of other cultures.
Rather than use Ben’s example states of California and Alaska, allow me to pick an example that hits a bit closer to home. Ben lives in Nevada, while I live in Texas.
Texas has 32 members of the house of Representatives, Nevada only has 3. The reason for this is the difference in populations. There are an estimated 22,118,509 people who live in Texas (or at least in 2003). There are only an estimated 2,241,154 people who live in Nevada (about 10 Texans for every 1 Nevadan). Now, as just about everyone knows, Nevada gets a great deal of its income from the fact that it has legalized gambling. Texas does not get this revenue. Let’s say a Texan representative decides to sponsor a bill to make gambling illegal nationwide. From a Texan point of view, it makes sense, Texans are taking their money out of Texas and spending it in Nevada, by making Gambling illegal nationwide they won’t do this.
In my hypothetical example, let’s say that it goes to a vote. Nevadans don’t want to outlaw gambling (at least the Nevadan government doesn’t because that’s where it gets all its money). Nevadan representatives vote no, Texan representatives vote yes. Motion carries, why? Cause Texas’ 32 votes trump Nevada’s 3.
Now you have eliminated the Senate so without further check except a stamp by the president, it becomes a law. Nevada’s large gambling cities of Las Vegas and Reno become ghost towns, people working there lose their jobs and fall into poverty. Unemployment skyrockets, Nevada calls for federal economic disaster relief, but the Texans are happy, the Texas residents keep their money in Texas instead of taking it to Nevada and having the Nevadans get tax revenue off of it. Texas residents now spend it in Texan stores, and sales tax revenue in Texas goes up.
See the whole point of the Senate was to make sure that large states are unable to simply prey on the smaller ones. Without this check and balance in there, the cultural values of one area of the country could destroy another part. Fortunately, we check both in America. In the house of representatives, the “American” gets its equal vote. Each representative represents approximately the same number of people. In the house, the cultural differences of different states get their equal vote. The desires of one state can’t overpower another. It’s a balanced system.
This is why I don’t support the destruction of the Senate, without the Senate, a few large states (California, New York, Texas) will completely control the destiny of the entire country, now do you really want the entire nation run entirely by actors, cowboys and people from Brooklyn? I don’t.