The Corner

“Disaster For Conservatives”

From a reader:

Jonah,

If Congress were expanded wouldn’t that mean that the dense cities would be overrepresented? It seems that for the most part people are grouped mostly by geography (as far as thinking goes). The typically liberal cities would completely drown out the typically more conservative rural areas simply because the cities have more people per mile.. Perhaps some sort of compromise between population and area would work better. Maybe you can clean this thought of mine up a bit.

Thanks for reading,

ME I don’t have time to get too into this right now. But I don’t think this is the case. The ratios of urban to rural would presumably stay pretty much intact, wouldn’t they? In other words there would be ten times more New York Congressmen but there would also be ten times more Wyoming Congressmen.

Second, cities tend to have lots of conservative enclaves which get drowned out in Congressional votes. So it doesn’t seem obvious to me that you wouldn’t get more conservative voices from New York City, for example. Meanwhile, Wyoming has (I presume) fewer liberal enclaves.

Third, even if it’d be bad for Republicans, I don’t know that it would be bad for conservatives since the hope would be that it would create greater inefficiencies in Congress and hence slow government down.

Fourth, I’m not a big believer in static political analysis. If the House became more liberal, the Senate might become more conservative in response. If a bunch of hot-heads went to the House maybe people would send more cool-tempered leaders to the Senate. This was what the Senate was originally intended to be. One of the founders called the House the cup and Senate the saucer. When the tea is too hot you pour the excess in the saucer and it cools down. Or something like that.

Fifth, I really just think it’s an interesting point about our government and paying heed to the idea helps us see where our government is as opposed to where it was intended to be. I’m open to other suggestions of how to apply this lesson to governmental reform. Or, I should say I’m open to the suggestion there are better ideas out there, I’m just not sure I want to hear them.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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