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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Increase the Membership of the House?

At Aeon, David Johnson writes of the ratio between people and representatives. He writes thatthe current global norm for democracies is about one representative per 146,000 people.
The US and the EU are at the less representative end of the spectrum. The US’s lower house has one representative per 744,000, and the EU, whose parliament has more limited powers (eg, it cannot introduce legislation) has one per 677,000 citizens. Save for India, whose Lok Sabha has one representative per 2.3 million people, no other democratic representative body comes close to the high ratios of the US and the EU. Even China, whose National People’s Congress (NPC) is elected via a complicated, multi-layered process and has limited power, has one representative per 460,679, thanks to the largest parliamentary body in the world, with 2,987 members. The NPC might not be democratic, but the Communist Party of China appreciates the symbolic importance of representation for stability. Citizens want to know whom to complain to.
If citizens of a representative government are to be genuinely represented, their interests and opinions, in all their variety, must find voice in the legislature. If they are to feel represented, they must feel connected to their representative; they must be able to communicate their political views to that representative. For example, I live in Berkeley, California, a city of about 120,000 people. I feel that I can communicate and be heard by our mayor, although I suspect it reaches a limit of the sort of direct connection required between citizen and representative. My US Representative, by contrast, also serves nearby Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda, San Leandro, and Piedmont – which together total more than 700,000 constituents. Not only do I not feel a personal connection with her, but these communities, though similar to Berkeley in many respects, are also significantly different.