Thursday, November 22, 2018

Three Ideas for Expanding Congress

1. The size of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives have not changed in nearly six decades.  We take them for granted, but really, the Congress has always been an organic body.

The size of the House was last set in 1911 at 453, when the national population was 92 million.  That works out to about 200,000 people per representative.

Now the US population is 326 million.  Each House district now has roughly 700,000 people.

BUT Wyoming, the least populous state, has only 500,000 people in it.  So, in a sense, their lone Representative has disproportionate clout in Congress.

I have long thought that the District of Columbia should be fully represented in the House of Representatives.  Their sole delegate can vote in committee, but not in the full House.

I propose that DC get full representation in the House.  AND that the size of each district be set by the size of the District of Columbia.  At the moment, the population of DC is about 694,000 -- bigger that Wyoming. 

SO If we divided 326 million by 694,000, we would expand the house to 470 Representatives.

Changing to this rule - DC always gets a Representative, and the other district sizes are based on the size of the District of Columbia - would give a reliable bright line for the slow organic development of the House.

On this basis, let's consider two other ideas about expanding Congress that have engaged political nerds and election jockeys.

2. Liberals want statehood for DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam.  Six new senators, all likely Democrats, would help balance the over-representation of sparse, Republican farm states.

I think these are bad ideas, for different reasons.  The District of Columbia is a city, not a state.  To solve its under-representation in the Senate, I would let them vote for Senators from Maryland, from which their territory was carved in the first place.

Puerto Rico is certainly a state-sized entity.  But I think it is better off as a commonwealth, with U.S. citizenship.  I would not like to see English made the "official language" of the U.S., but I do think that the nearly universal use of a common language for public life is one of the great and necessary strengths of so large and diverse a country as ours.  It would be bad to try to have a bilingual country, but worse to try to force Puerto Rico to switch to English.

Statehood for Guam is a non-starter, I think.  The idea is only on the table as a bargaining chip, or a huge overreach.

3. Conservatives will discover that, if liberals get any traction on DC and Puerto Rican statehood, that they could split Texas into five states.  This was part of the treaty when Texas was admitted to the union.  Some imagine that this would mean ten Republican senators.  I think it would mean that the big Democratic cities would be freed from bondage to the vast Republican countryside.  The most urban of these new states would be at least purple, if not blue.  Be careful what you wish for.

SO my centrist proposal for expanding Congress: a modest expansion for the House, a modest rectification of an injustice to DC residents in relation to the Senate, and no new states.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Rainbow Party and the White Man's Party

Our politics is becoming increasingly partisan. 

The two parties are evolving into the Rainbow Party and the White Man's Party.

All the rainbow demographic groups are growing.

All the white man demographic groups are shrinking.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Difference Between Sex and Marriage is Like the Difference Between Swimming and Baptism.

Swimming is a behavior that we can describe neutrally.

Baptism is an action that is meaningful because of its context in a social institution.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Suppressing Yard Signs is a Class Privilege

In most suburban neighborhoods, political yard signs are prohibited by the Covenants, Codes, and Restrictions that the Homeowners Association enforces.

This rule is meant to promote civility and prevent conflict.

It is a sign of class privilege.  It assumes that, no matter who wins the election, the suburbanites will be protected.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

A Demographic Reason Why People In Their Sixties are Happier

People in their 60s tend to be happier and more confident than younger people.

This article has quite a few reasons why.

A less obvious reason: the really unhappy people have started to die off before their 60s.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Emergence of Family Systems

I have taught the Beavers model of family systems in my family life class for many years.

Recently I have been immersed in "critical realist" social theory.  One of the most attractive features of critical realism is the idea that real things - things with the power to cause other effects - are not simply real or not-real, but can emerge into reality.

I see a way to combine the two.

The Beavers sequence of family systems is, from least functional to most functional, Chaos, Tyranny, Rule-Bound, Adequate, and Optimal.

As these systems affect the emergence of a family into fully functional reality, the sequence could be:

Chaos - prevents the emergence of a higher-order functioning system.
Tyranny - achieves minimal order, but can only be defensive; it is a necessary precondition for emergence, but is not sufficient.
Rule-Bound - is a minimally emergent reality.  The system exists independent of its elements (the individual family members).
Adequate - is an emergent reality with creativity
Optimal - is an emergent reality with creativity and resilience.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Why General American English Was Codified in Cleveland in the '20s

"Talk American" is an episode of the podcast Code Switch.  In it they note the role of Hiram College professor John S. Kenyon of creating the name, and argument, that the "General American" accent was the accent of Cleveland in that era.

This sparked an idea that I have no way to prove.  Cleveland is an odd part of the Midwest.  It was originally claimed by Massachusetts as its "western reserve" (preserved in the name of Case Western Reserve University), and was long thought to have a more New England feel than Columbus or Cincinnati, Ohio's other big cities.

It makes sense to me that in the 1920s, Boston was long past the time when the evolved accent of the Puritans still dominated ordinary speech.  The mass Irish migrations of the 1840s, in particular, would likely have dramatically changed the speech of "old" New England. 

Cleveland on the other hand, might still have had a Puritan-derived speech among its dominant class, even as the wave of Eastern Europeans was arriving at the bottom of the class structure. 

The claim for the General American accent today is that it is the standard broadcasting language, used by news readers to bring the "news from nowhere" without an identifiable accented location.

Puritan culture has always had a claim to set the standard for American high culture.  It makes sense to me that its linguistic descendant is still the closest thing we have to a standard way of speaking.