The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

The new senators

Annie Lowrey suggests some new ways to slice and dice the Senate:

Imagine a chamber in which senators were elected by different income brackets — with two senators representing the poorest 2 percent of the electorate, two senators representing the richest 2 percent and so on.

Based on Census Bureau data, five senators would represent Americans earning between $100,000 and $1 million individually per year, with a single senator working on behalf of the millionaires (technically, it would be two-tenths of a senator). Eight senators would represent Americans with no income. Sixteen would represent Americans who make less than $10,000 a year, an amount well below the federal poverty line for families. The bulk of the senators would work on behalf of the middle class, with 34 representing Americans making $30,000 to $80,000 per year.

Imagine trying to convince someone — Michael Bloomberg, perhaps? — to be the lonely senator representing the richest percentile. And what if the senators were apportioned according to jobs figures? This year, the unemployed would have gained two seats. Think of the deals that would be made to attract that bloc!

I like this line of thinking because it denaturalizes our system of government—makes you realize how arbitrary it is in the first place. It also makes you realize how much things have changed. Two hundred years ago, it seemed natural to assume that your primary allegiance was geographic. The United States was still a patchwork in that way. Today: is your primary allegiance, in fact, determined by income? If not: by what?

I mean, my primary allegiance is probably determined mostly by RSS feed, but I realize that’s not going to get much traction.

(This, by the way, is the kind of discussion that side-steps my policy ennui entirely. Call it meta-policy.)


I definitely see the appeal of altering the makeup up the Senate in general, but this specific idea rubs me the wrong way. What incentive is there for 1) the senators representing different classes to work together, and 2) the senators representing the lower classes to work to improve their lot in life?

The first consideration puts us right where we are now, with regional interests preempting national in the best case of the senatefail scenario (i.e. when they’re not catering to special interests that aren’t tied to a state). With a class-based senate that problem becomes, well, class-based.

The second consideration can be addressed by allowing Senators representing the lower classes to be able to graduate to middle class representation, but I’m still not convinced this route works.

While we’re talking Senate fixes, I’m convinced that sucking money out of politics via the Lessig method will go a long way. I’m also tossing around an idea I read the other day of longer terms combined with term limits. That’d stop the endless campaigning (in theory) and maybe allow the more industrious inhabitants of Congress to do their jobs.

Regarding (1): it’s possible that if we were thinking along such stongly numerical lines, we would be much more aware of the interdependencies between the classes. I’m assuming this would be by household income normalized for number of adults and children in the household, in which case you would suddenly be much more aware of how your college-graduate children had one set of economic-interests and your cousin the industrialist had another. You’d also be aware of your own changes through life.

Regarding (2) people are much more likely to want to trade up to the higher classes than they are to want to move. they will be pushing on their senator to make things such that a large bulk of them trade up to a higher bracket, and they can take their senator along the ride with them.

“…and they can take their senator along the ride with them.”

That line—that imagined political dynamic—made me grin. There’s a great story waiting there.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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