Monday, October 15, 2012

Rethinking the American Union

Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century 
 The contributors to Donald Livingston's valuable collection of essays defend two main contentions. Each of these contentions may be held independently of the other, but the first one provides a reason to welcome the truth of the second.
Livingston, with characteristic care, states the first of these contentions in this way:
As Aristotle taught, everything in nature has a proper size, beyond or below which it becomes dysfunctional.… The same holds for the functioning of other social entities [than a jury] such as committees, lawmaking assemblies, and bureaucracies and the ratio of population to representative (e.g., one representative for every million persons is not representation at all). None of these can function well if they are too large or out of scale. (pp. 16–17)
Livingston concludes that a republic must be of limited size. His argument, if I have grasped it, is this: A republic must have a representative legislative assembly. In order to count properly as representative, the number of persons that each member of the assembly represents must not be too large. But it is also the case that the number of people in the assembly itself cannot be overly large, for the reason stated in the preceding paragraph. In a large republic, these requirements cannot at the same time be met. Thus, the proper size of a republic is necessarily limited.
Livingston adds to this argument an appeal to tradition:

More @ Mises


  1. The soveriegn state of New Hampshire and how it deals with representation of its citizens. The book rightly makes the claim that the United states has long lost its ability to consider itself a representative form of government. A stated below it would take 99,000 congressmen to give the same representation as the State of NH.

    "The New Hampshire House of Representatives is the lower house in the New Hampshire General Court. The House of Representatives consists of 400 members coming from 103 districts across the state, created from divisions of the state's counties. On average, each legislator represents about 3,300 residents. If the same level of representation were present in the U.S. Congress, that body would have approximately 99,000 members, according to current population estimates. Members are paid a salary of $200 per biennium, as are New Hampshire State Senators."