Improving the Mechanics of Government

Source: How to Salvage Congress | The Atlantic, by U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher (WI-R)

I have come to believe that the problem is not the people. The problem is a defective process and a power structure that, whichever party is in charge, funnels all power to leadership and stifles debate and initiative within the ranks.

Change the Congressional Calendar

Change How We Choose Committee Chairs

Streamline Committee Jurisdiction


Source: America’s Hidden Duopoly | Freakonomics, by Stephen J. Dubner

We all know our political system is “broken” — but what if that’s not true? Some say the Republicans and Democrats constitute a wildly successful industry that has colluded to kill off competition, stifle reform, and drive the country apart.

Having come to the conclusion that the political system operated more like a traditional industry than a public institution, Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter set down their ideas in a Harvard Business School report. It’s called “Why Competition in the Politics Industry Is Failing America.”

It’d be one thing if this large industry were delivering value to its customers — which is supposed to be us, the citizenry. But Gehl and Porter argue the political industry is much better at generating revenue for itself and creating jobs for itself while treating its customers with something close to disdain. … And the numbers back up their argument. Customer satisfaction with the political industry is at historic lows. Fewer than a quarter of Americans currently say they trust the federal government. In terms of popularity, it ranks below every private industry. That includes the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, the airline industry — and, yes, cable TV.

Gehl and Porter identify the “five key inputs to modern political competition: candidates, campaign talent, voter data, idea suppliers, and lobbyists.” Here’s what they write: “Increasingly, most everything required to run a modern campaign and govern is tied to or heavily influenced by one party or the other, including think tanks, voter data, and talent.” … Gehl and Porter argue that the political industry has essentially co-opted the media, which spreads their messages for free.

Perhaps most important, the two parties rig the election system against would-be disrupters. The rules they set allow for partisan primaries, gerrymandered congressional districts, and winner-take-all elections.

What we believe is, we need to create structural reforms that would actually better align the election process and the legislative process with the needs of the average citizen.

the first and probably the single most powerful [electoral reform] is to move to non-partisan, single-ballot primaries. … ranked-choice voting … non-partisan redistricting

changes to the rules around governing. … propose moving away from partisan control of the day-to-day legislating in Congress. And also, of course, in state legislatures as well.

If you take money out of politics without changing the rules of the game, you’ll simply make it cheaper for those using the existing system to get the self-interested results that they want without changing the incentives to actually deliver solutions for the American people. Having said that, we do believe that there are benefits to increasing the power of smaller donors. … For instance: having the government itself match donations from small donors.

We should note: most of the ideas Gehl and Porter are presenting here are not all that novel if you follow election reform even a little bit. Even we poked into a lot of them, a couple years ago, in an episode called “Ten Ideas to Make Politics Less Rotten.” I guess it’s one measure of how successful, and dominant, the political duopoly is that plenty of seemingly sensible people have plenty of seemingly sensible reform ideas that, for the most part, gain very little traction.