Joseph Gibson on how to improve Congress

Chug refers me to this new book.  A few of the ideas are:

1. Make Congress a temporary job, a bit more like jury duty or serving in the military.

2. Allow all financial contributions but require full disclosure on the internet.

3. Lower or eliminate the fixed allotment for Congressional staff, to limit the "bubble" which surrounds Congressmen.

4. Do not allow fundraising while Congress is in session, to make sessions more urgent.

5. Require that bills be written in plain English.

6. Allow formal vote-trading, so minority legislators could have some prospect of promoting their better ideas.

7. Make it easier to repeal unnecessary laws.

8. Eliminate the "hold" and make filibusters much harder.

9. Make confirmations quicker and easier.

10. Make the House smaller.

There is more, but that is a start. 

In general I find Congressional reform proposals, including filibuster abolition, difficult to evaluate.  There is no simple model at hand.  Sometimes the median voter model is useful, but in most cases it implies the reforms don't matter, a conclusion which I would not wish to accept so readily.  Multi-dimensional cycling models often imply that either a) it still doesn't matter (the agenda setter remains in charge), or b) it matters some huge amount in a way which is difficult to forecast but the entire political equilibrium can shift and not just locally.

There are many "near median voter models," perhaps too many.

There is also the Becker QJE 1983 model about the bargaining power of different interest groups.  Still, when it comes to outlining exactly how the procedural reforms shift the political bargain, we are again looking at a black box.  The first cut version of the model seems to imply that political procedures don't much matter.

The overall problem is that plausible models generate either no changes or large, non-local changes.  Maybe we should take those results seriously, but then in the former case it doesn't matter and in the then-more-relevant latter case we still can't predict the nature or even the direction of the non-local shift.


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