We currently have 435 legislators in the House of Representatives. This number has been fixed since 1913. Question: Do we need the same number of representatives that we had back then?
On one hand, you could argue that we need more seats in Congress. After all, there were only 97M Americans in 1913. Today we have 307M Americans. Surely more constituents requires a larger congress?
But think about the technology advancements since that time. In 1913, if you wanted to communicate with your representative, what choices did you have? He certainly didnâ€™t visit his local district very often â€“ the first commercial flight didnâ€™t even take place until 1914. Calling your representative was unlikely â€“ there was no long distance from California to Washington at back then, and long distance calls from closer geographies were manual and time consuming. And of course there was no internet, so real-time communication was impossible. We did have the one-way megaphones of newspapers and magazines. And of course, you could write a letter.
So, in 1913, maybe we needed 435 legislators. Each had a significant job to do with just communicating, corresponding, traveling, and coordinating between Washington and his local region.
But today, do we need so many? With a single email, legislators can reach far more than 225,000 people right from the comfort of his mistressâ€™ bed. Websites, telephones, television, and email combined certainly make the communication burden almost non-existent compared to 1913.
Obviously, there is more to legislation than just communication with constituents. But, given the gridlock in Washington, the skyrocketing costs of Washington, and the increased dissatisfaction with the never-ending burden of an increasingly complex set of laws, maybe we should cut that 435 in half. Any reason why not? Or is that just the way we roll around here?