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America out of scale: Rethinking the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929

magnet-1-600x399Eventually over time nations grow out of scale.  The manageable becomes unmanageable because as the population and size of a nation grows so do its problems.  Our founders believed that government at its best was an imperfect beast administered by flawed bureaucrats seeking power and control.  They felt that in order to keep government in check it should be as close to the people as possible.  This is why many of our founding fathers feared an all-powerful federal government with its seat at a national capital far from the people.  They knew it would be more detached from the people so they decided to do three things to keep it in check when they crafted the constitution.

The first was to create a system of government that had three separate but equal branches of government that would keep one another in check.  This division of authority prevented the consolidation of government power in one central branch.  Additionally the government’s authority was strictly limited by 17 enumerated powers granted to the congress.  The second thing they did was pass a “Bill of Rights” as a guarantee that the new government would not be able to infringe upon the basic rights of the people.  And finally in an attempt to keep the government as close to the people the House of Representative was created in Article I, section 2 of the constitution.

This body of government was designed to be the voice of the people whereas its counterpart the Senate was designed to be the voice of the states.  Representatives are up for election every 2 years, keeping them close to the people.  Representatives are apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each State shall have at least one Representative was another feature to keep the House close to the people.  It was very much like this until the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 and this is what I want to focus on.

Signed into law on June 18, 1929, the Permanent Apportionment Act capped House Membership at the level established after the 1910 Census and created a procedure for automatically reapportioning House seats after every decennial census.  The move to cap the number of Representatives in the House was driven by rural states losing their representation to larger urbanized states.  Many believe this Act not only violates the constitution because it significantly changed the way representatives are apportioned, but eliminated the one for every thirty thousand ratio.  In 1930 the average ratio was one Representative for every 280,000 people.  Today that ratio is more out of scale with one Representative for every 710,000 people.  No wonder we don’t feel like our views are being represented.  Because of Apportionment Act our representation has been severely watered down.  Our system wasn’t designed to work this way.  As our population has increased in the last 80 years the number of Representatives has remained the same diluting our representative style republic.   The once manageable has become unmanageable because we are not being properly represented anymore.  My Representative could really care less what my views are because I’m one out of 710,000.  Now imagine if that number was cut in half.

What if I was one out of 360,000 people?  Do you think my opinions or views would weigh more on the mind of my Representative?  Western North Dakota and Eastern North Dakota are two very different worlds with people dealing with very different issues.  One Representative can’t be everything for everyone.  I’m sure it’s like this in many states.  Better representation strengthens the republic and I believe this is something we need to take a look at.  These are not my ideas.  These ideas have been floating around for some time now.  Below is a video clip of Dr. Donald Livingston talking about this very subject.

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I disagree with Dr. Livingston when he says that too many representatives would basically gum up the system and make it dysfunctional.  The reason I disagree is because the less the federal government can do to us, the better we are.  And just maybe if the people are better represented this will force the federal government to step back with by their own accord or by the will of the people.  This is why I believe it’s time we take a hard look at the Apportionment Act of 1929 and look at expanding the size of the House to move towards getting America back in scale.  This is a move that would not only give the individual more power, but would strengthen the republic at a time when we have a government that’s out of control.  This something I also think the left would get behind.  Let me know what you think.

Liberty forever, freedom for all!

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  • Jim at Asylum Watch January 30, 2013 at 7:48 AM

    It’s an unp;easant thought, John, but what if Montesquieu was right and madison was wrong?
    http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/01/madisons_constitution.html
    Jim at Asylum Watch recently posted..A Sharia Revolution from Africa to the Caucasus?My Profile

    • John Carey January 31, 2013 at 5:15 AM

      Madison’s final blueprint was a major shift for him in terms of a republican style government. He was originally on the side of big centralized control government. In the end what he was championing was a compromise from his original proposal which was way off the mark.
      John Carey recently posted..Teeing it up: A Round at the LINKs (Think outside of the box edition)My Profile

  • Steve Dennis January 30, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    I have wondered why the number of House members hasn’t increased in so long. I didn’t know about this legislation, thanks for the education. It certainly seems clear that this law is unconstitutional and flies in the face of the intent of the House by lessening our representation and perhaps that was the goal all along.

    • John Carey January 31, 2013 at 5:19 AM

      I still say its something we should take a look at. If we are going to continue to allow our government to operate beyond their constitutional authority and expand its power then I say we need to expand the representation of the people. The left should love this because it not only grows the size of government, but its a power to the people thing.
      John Carey recently posted..Teeing it up: A Round at the LINKs (Think outside of the box edition)My Profile

  • theCL Report: Official Lies January 30, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    [...] Is America Too Big? [...]

  • KingShamus January 30, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    More representation = more representation.

    In a democratic republic, that’s generally a good thing.

    I kinda like the idea of a 600 member House of Representatives.
    KingShamus recently posted..‘Immigration Reform’ Is Just Another Term For ‘Republican Suicide’My Profile

  • Mike G. January 31, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    Although it’s a good idea and would go back to the intent of the founders, it would never work because of two reasons. First would be the current members would have to give up some of their considerable power and the other is money. We’d either have to increase taxes or ask current members to take a pay cut…good luck with that.

    • John Carey January 31, 2013 at 10:25 PM

      Every thing must have a starting point and even though the probability of this ever happening is low we must still have the conversation. My guess in the 1760s when the colonists first started talking about life without England, many felt that would never happen. England would never allow us to be free. People would never stand against England. Yes I know different times, different people…but it all started with a conversation.
      John Carey recently posted..Standing on Principle – Drug Testing Welfare RecipientsMy Profile

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