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Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 8:45 pm
First Name: Jeff
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WashPo editorial: The House was supposed to grow with population.

Post by JEQuidam »

In an excellent Washington Post editorial by Danielle Allen, she addresses the question of whether a bigger House would make it “harder to get things done”. With regards to that, she notes that “the most important point is that the principle of inclusion requires us to learn how to operate on a larger scale than we have in the past”.

Her example may relate more to having larger committees, than a larger House per se. However, as explained in Section NIne of TTO, the committees and subcommittees are where all the work gets done. The House chamber itself is largely relegated to the formal voting process itself as well as ceremonial activities.

That notwithstanding, Professor Allen’s illustration is as follows:
Over the past five years, I’ve chaired three large task forces, including one on civic education, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ commission on the future of democracy that motivates these columns. Each had a minimum of three co-chairs. We used this triumvirate structure to get a diversity of perspective into the leadership. We also built bigger task forces than in a past era, again to optimize for inclusion of the full range of relevant viewpoints. We operated a committee of 40 where the number would have been set at 20 in another era.

As we shifted to these scaled-up forms of operation, we introduced new tools. They included digital discovery tools such as instant polls and word clouds to bring a range of viewpoints to the surface, breakout groups and structured deliberations to make progress on specific questions, and rapid prioritization exercises with sticky notes on wall boards.

These are small examples, but the point is that a host of new practices and tools are being developed as people learn how to carry out the work of deliberation in larger and more diverse committees. In 1929, people might have thought it wasn’t possible to do good work with an assembly of more than 435 people. But now, nearly 100 years later, much more is possible.
Certainly her point about employing “new practices and tools” to facilitate deliberation in a scaled-up House of Representatives applies to the whole body as well as to their various committees and subcommittees.

Read the editorial here: The House was supposed to grow with population. It didn’t. Let’s fix that.
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